Posted: October 8, 2020
HCF is adamantly opposed to partial or total demolition of the smokestacks, as they are a defining feature of the Eastside’s skyline and represent some of the last vestiges of Charleston’s industrial past. However, our opposition to the demolition of the smokestacks also represents our commitment to the city’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) regulations. Like all other private property owners in the city of Charleston, HCF stridently adheres to these ordinances to ensure preservation of our own properties and strives to be a preservation example for the Charleston community. We are particularly troubled that the city’s demolition order for the smokestacks is based upon a 4-year old engineering report, meaning that the city has flouted its own laws, knowingly deferred much-needed maintenance, circumvented the BAR, and allowed the St. Julian Devine smokestacks to languish for years as a potential public hazard. As the birthplace of preservation in the country, the city of Charleston should be a preservation leader and should be held to the same standards that it requires of taxpayers.
HCF also was troubled by the discussion of the costs to preserve the smokestacks. Several members of council stated that preserving the smokestacks is a budgetary “either-or” scenario, citing that the Eastside could either have flooding improvements and affordable housing opportunities or they could preserve the smokestacks. We could not disagree more. The Eastside deserves better, and the Cooper River Bridge Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District presents a major funding opportunity to accomplish the desires of the community without impacting the city’s operational budget.
“Our community still wants to preserve our smokestacks…For a very long time we have been voiceless and for once we are speaking up, and we’re unified, and we’re together. We would like to ask that you not use affordable housing as a tactic to divide us. While we understand that there are new things on the horizon that may be promising for our community, we have all been promised lots of things for this community and they have all fallen by the wayside… We hope that you would listen to the community’s voice for once.”
– LaTonya Gamble, Eastside Neighborhood President
HCF again asked City Council members for a reprieve from the demolition order to give HCF, other interested parties, and the Eastside community the opportunity to develop a creative plan to preserve the smokestacks, while protecting the safety of the community in their shadow. We also stated that an expedited response to the preservation community’s FOIA request for engineering reports and other studies on the smokestacks is needed for HCF to fulfill its commitment to be a part of a collaborative solution for their preservation.
The Mayor expressed his intention to dispense with this issue at the next City Council meeting on October 13th. Please join HCF and the Eastside community in opposition to this wanton demolition. Contact your council member and sign the petition. This issue is much bigger than just these two smokestacks!
The workshop may be viewed here.