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Riley’s Neighborhood Squeeze Play
Lee Walton

Notwithstanding the multimillion dollar valve of the many well preserved, historic homes in the French Quarter, Ansonborough, and Mazcyk-Wraggborough Neighborhoods, the few remaining locals with roots in the Peninsula must surely suffer the pains of compassion and pity as these long suffering neighborhoods now face seemingly insurmountable challenges to their very existence. For nearly four decades, the relentless pressures of increased tourism, commercialization, atrocious public schools, and the insatiable need for increased student housing has driven both locals and transplants alike from the Peninsula by the thousands.

Regardless of relative socio-economic status, the broad spectrum of economic gentrification throughout the Peninsula has forced family after family to seek the stability and livability of suburban or close-in ring-city residential alternatives. The entire Charleston Peninsula has become, in the span of a few generations, an incompatible, dangerous environment for anyone seeking the security and quietude necessary to raise a family or live securely throughout their latter years.

In the living memory of many Charlestonians, the once vibrant and attractive neighborhoods South of Broad are now only hollow facades of their recent past. Less than a third of these homes are now occupied as full-time residences. Most have morphed into part-time trophy homes for the ultra-wealthy that flit in and out of town at their leisure like blue-flies darting above carrion. The very heart and soul of the Peninsula is slowly being replaced by an environment intended to accomplish only one objective – becoming a world-class revenue generator for the Riley Administration and its stable of loyal supporters and sycophants.

Squeezed by Riley’s extensive renovations and expansions within the City Market intent upon increasing tourist accommodations and extending “night life” beyond reasonable hours and the massive renovations in the Calhoun- East Bay area, Ansonborough doesn’t stand a chance – they’re toast! What quietude the new cruise ship terminal doesn’t destroy, the renovated Gaillard Auditorium, countless new hotels, and ugly, multi-story commercial buildings on Ansonborough Field surely will. Riley’s plans for the renovation of Union Terminal will add thousands of tourists to streets and sidewalks now often packed beyond capacity. In bad times their numbers may at least be tolerable short-term, but as the economy improves and disposable income once again increases, the < Golden Hordes will return like hungry gnats on a spring afternoon.

Riley’s dirty little secret is that he really doesn’t care if the current neighborhood protestors leave or stay. They’re a nuisance and often loud, inconvenient obstacles in his way. Better that they sell-out to a wealthy part-timer “from off” willing to write big checks to his favorite causes in exchange for recognition at a City-sponsored black-tie gala or a slot on a notable local charity board.

In the years following the Civil War, the lack of wealth and national notoriety saved the charm and history of Charleston from the fate of many more prosperous northern colonial cities. Pity that wealth and notoriety will now be the seeds that lead to its transition into just another tourist trap known as “Anywhere USA”.

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