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Charleston's West Side Renewal Plan Draws Criticism

Reported: May. 12, 2014 9:09 PM EDT
Updated: May. 12, 2014 9:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Taisha Walker) --The city of Charleston put the West Side Renewal Plan in place nearly six years ago. A number of projects were created within that time but some people say more attention should be focused on revitalizing residential neighborhoods.

"We believe that if we would just stop trying to defend what hadn't happened and what hasn't been done and let's agree there's a lot that needs to be done," said Rev, Matthew Watts of Grace Bible Church.

Jim Edwards, executive director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, said the organization has demolished old homes, purchased properties, and started several street scape projects on the West Side of town. Edwards said he even worked with Rev. Watt's organization --HOPE Community Development Corporation-- to help revitalize the neighborhood. The Grace Bible Church pastor said CURA'S current focus is distorted.

"This is a residential community and so when we went through the planning process six years ago, overwhelmingly the residents said they wanted the priority to be housing, eliminating vacant, blighted housing and creating more safe, affordable housing," Watts said.

Watts said there are at least 40 old, deserted homes around Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School that are in dire need of a facelift. He said the condition of the homes are posing a public safety concern to the children that live and attend school in that area.

"I suppose there's always more that can be accomplished," Edwards said. "There are obviously, there are limitations of money and other resources and the community has been on a decline for the last 50 or 60 years."

Edwards said CURA has done a lot of work on the West Side, more than any other part of Charleston. CURA is currently working to help revive the Washington St. corridor and plans to increase real estate activity there over the next five years.



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