CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – “I will represent these few people around here.” Charleston’s eastside, as Earl Brown remembers it, was once a neighborhood where most residents went to church together, people hung out and played ball in the park. But most importantly, everyone knew each other.
Decades later, what stands out the most to Brown is how diverse the neighborhood has become.
“Complaints about the guys sitting out on the park over there, well we’ve been doing it for years. We’re not offending anybody,” said Brown.
Brown, well-known as the former head basketball coach for both CA Brown High School and Burke High School, grew up on the eastside and still calls it home.
“Well, we’ve been sitting out and enjoying one another all our lives, and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.
On the eastside, the streets are revitalized with luxury developments, new businesses, people of different backgrounds, and even college students.
But some longtime residents are concerned it’s going to get too expensive for them to stay.
“We knew nothing about it until it happened. It was just like getting hit upside the head with a brick. We didn’t know it was coming,” Brown said.
Now, the city’s goal is to beautify the eastside and give citizens a sense of pride.
“Improved park spaces, you know more flowers, more benches, more shade trees, more water fountains- these are all the things that make up the public realm which we’re so proud of in the city of Charleston.” said Jason Kronsberg, director and capital projects for the City of Charleston.
But how will these new changes preserve and protect not only the history, but the residents of the neighborhood?
“Part of that preservation effort is to provide those persons who own their homes currently differed forgivable leans, whereby they can rehabilitate their home, so that they can properly age in place,” explained Geona Johnson, director of Housing and Community Development for the City of Charleston.
“Well, I think we are a little uninformed,” Brown quipped.
The city says it does have resources to help those who feel they are forgiven.
“The ways you ensure that those long-term residents and those individuals that might be of lower incomes are a part of that, is you create programs, and you facilitate conversation to ensure that you understand what their concerns are and then you educate them on what’s available,” Johnson explained.
According to the City of Charleston’s comprehensive plan, by 2030, the city will need over 16,000 affordable housing units in the community.
Now, the city plans to apply for a $1,250,000 grant to get started on those projects.
“So, we’re constantly looking at ways and trying to pursue avenues by which to help folks maintain and retain their homes for their lifetime,” said Johnson.
Those who call the eastside home, they say they’ll figure it out one way or another.
“Through Hell or high waters, I’ma be here,” Brown said.