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Affordable Housing – why it should not be such problem?

Dear Sir,

Our company, LS Group, are developers and builders in town, latterly in mainly the East Side and Elliottborough. I recently attended a conference organized by Historic Charleston and focused on affordable housing. Nothing I heard gave me a positive feeling and general consensus was that it’s “awfully difficult”. This is not the case in part for the reasons explained below and it would help greatly if our leaders changed their mindset.

Charleston City code mandates an affordable element in planning applications. That element is typically 15% and limited to 10 years duration i.e. it’s transient. Many other jurisdictions in this country allow for mitigation or offset instead meaning that the developer pays to have an alternative affordable element created nearby as defined buy the city’s needs. Building affordable housing in high rise condominiums is both expensive and sub-optimum for a population needing neighborhoods, community interaction, space and self determination. Building elsewhere will produce more product at a much faster pace than is currently achieved by City code.

In our circle of contacts is a group of concerned developers similar to ourselves and willing to create beautiful mixed use neighborhoods with a strong, large, permanent affordable element. We have the support of neighborhood committees and local churches and the City of N Charleston. We already own land for hundreds of such homes within a 5 minute drive or 15 minute cycle of Calhoun St downtown. Help us, help our City by helping bring mitigation on to the debating table producing the economic driver to build out this opportunity, we can and will do the rest.

Respectfully yours, Chris Leigh-Jones

Chris       0 Comments            

Just Speak When You Pass Someone

I was walking around Colonial Lake which has become a wonderful gathering place for lots of neighbors, near and far, to walk and enjoy the beautiful lake and plantings. I always speak to anyone I pass as I walk by. I thought about how simple looking someone in the eye and saying “Good Morning” or “Hello” is and yet how meaningful it is. Acknowledging someone walking by means they matter, they are not invisible to me, and they deserve me to speak and look at them. In a time, when we are looking, as individuals, for simple acts that matter and give us some control over kindness and respect, I can’t think of anything more powerful than just speaking to another person we pass. Everyone can do it, it doesn’t cost a penny and usually you are rewarded with a response back.

susan       0 Comments            

if i were mayor

if i were mayor i would make to town a better place to live by making a safe place for kids to play

cheyann       1 Comments            

Making parks, sidewalks, and roads better

The parks are always full of trash, the side walks have worn of paint and the roads aren’t always freshly paved after like the first 3 months of when they where fixing the roads
This will really help the enviroment so that we will have a clean and fresh environment.

Lucy       0 Comments            

Clean up after your pet

NYC and other cities issue citations if you fail to clean up after your pet; Charleston needs to consider doing the same. In some upper peninsular areas no area of grass is safe to step on and areas like Simonton park have become a virtual pet toilet with little to no grass surviving (despite provided waste bags and trash cans). Please clean up after your pet!

Elise       0 Comments            

Pooling Ride Shares

Occasionally the best things in life are free and so it is with ride-hailing. Uber Pool and Lyft Line are ushering in a major change in transportation which, among other desirable outcomes, will be a game changer for public transportation. Users are right now, today enjoying reduced time, cost and stress with increased productivity. A UC Berkley study found that for every one ride hailing vehicle on the road there are between 9 and 13 fewer cars. Best of all this costs government nothing. So, my idea is that our county and city governments should encourage these services with enabling legislation as well as consider startup subsidies if necessary and a campaign to acquaint residents with the benefits. I’ve never been a fan of mass transportation projects.  they’re capital intensive and you don’t know if they’re worthwhile until the money is spent and you can count the riders. Uber and Lyft ride sharing is free AND users -reduce greenhouse emission -save money -can go from two to one car family -improve the commuting experience by reading or doing work instead of driving -reduce traffic

Mayor       0 Comments            

Aerial Gondola as Mass Transit Idea

Charleston area traffic is getting worse every day. This area badly needs mass transportation. Since we are at sea level, subways will not work. For myriad reasons, the bus system is so limited that it is not effective. A monorail was studied years ago, but never got off the ground. I have read hat the cost of building an aerial gondola comes in at between $3 million and $12 million per mile, versus $36 million per mile for light rail systems. For one example, I think the distance between the airport and downtown Charleston s about 12 miles. An aerial gondola might entice some tourists not to bring cars downtown. The route could be broken up by stops near the affordable neighborhoods surrounding Park Circle (about 9 miles from downtown and about 5 miles from the airport). We need ways to get to the beaches without clogging the streets with cars. It is about 12 miles from downtown to Folly Beach by car, but less “as the crow flies.” Check out to read about cities all over the world that have built aerial gondolas.

Melinda       0 Comments            

Street/ambassadors Guides

Let’s train a lot of the jobless to be street guides like in Washington DC and other popular tourist spots. Everytime I take a walk downtown there are people gazing about dazed by the little streets and lack of signage. We could have wandering ambassadors helping them out and able to point visitors in the right direction. Even smaller SC towns have better signage ie Aiken comes to mind.

Mary       0 Comments            

Bridge recycling

Safe crossing of water bodies is often a stumbling block for trail planners. SC DOT is getting an infusion of cash in the next budget, and is to spend a bunch on repairing and replacing bridges in upcoming years. Biking and hiking trail organizations need to organize to claim key old bridges in the state that are being abandoned. We lost out on the old Folly Creek and Folly River bridges—both were demolished. My suggestion that they be kept for bikes and pedestrians was treated with amusement by officials. They could have dovetailed with the marsh-crossing-boardwalk suggested by the Rethink Folly Road consultants. No one wanted the liability of taking these bridges. Yet throughout Europe tourists flock to hike, bike, and shop on old bridges like Charles Bridge (Prague), Iron Bridge (Shropshire), and many Roman bridges.

Lawrence       0 Comments            


Another alternative: Acquire an old bridge, often free.
Use one lane for bikes and pedestrians. Allow entrepreneurs to set up in the other lane (west-side market🍷); charge them rent to defray bridge maintenance.

Another alternative: Build a new light-duty bridge for bikes and pedestrians. In our state, Greenville demolished a 6-lane highway bridge over the Reedy River and replaced it with a modern light-duty suspension bridge for pedestrians to view the falls.
A boon for tourism! In order to clear the Ashley channel, a bike suspension bridge could be steeper than a vehicular bridge.

Lawrence       1 Comments            

Ashley bicycle crossing

Having given up bicycle riding at 77 and almost never driving over the US 17 bridges, I don’t have a dog in that fight. I do strongly agree that a safe bike crossing of the Ashley is a top priority. I did make a suggestion for a less costly bicycle crossing of the Ashley in a letter to the Post & Courier published on 5 Oct 2015. I was told that ferrying across the channel is too unconventional. However, it seems unreasonable to me to take a bridge lane built to accommodate oversized loads and 18-wheelers and convert it at great expense to use for light loads like bicycles and pedestrians. Boardwalk construction for light duty use like walking and biking would be far less expensive. Consider elevating the boardwalk enough near the channel to accommodate passage of small boats, and have a floating section in the channel that could be hauled aside (infrequently) whenever the two Ashley River US 17 bridges are being opened for large boats. Sunset Beach used to be accessed by a one-lane floating bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway (tidal); it was towed to the side for yachts and barges to pass. And Fripp Island has a boardwalk/bikeway across marsh, with an elevated section over a creek; Hunting Island also. Methinks not enough thought has been given to alternatives for the Ashley crossing. It would be far safer for bikers if the crossing were tied to the West Ashley Greenway, not US 17. Or further up the Ashley, the West Ashley Bikeway could be connected to Grove Street by a boardwalk with an elevated section for small boats or a floating swing section for larger boats.

Lawrence       0 Comments            

Recreational Development

While I do not advocate the commercialization of the entire lower peninsula, I do strongly believe that downtown would greatly benefit from expanding commerce beyond the 3 streets to which it is more or less limited today (King between Spring and Broad, Market, and East Bay between Market and Broad; I wouldn’t even include Broad, itself, as it’s mostly offices). That said, we have plenty of retailers and restaurants. What we need is recreation. That takes 2 forms: Public and commercial.

Public: Charleston, including downtown, needs more parks of all sizes, but particularly a couple larger parks with a track, a basketball court, a tennis court, something of that nature. The southern tip of Waterfront Park has some of these features, but that’s just one park. Public recreational development could also include riverfront development along both the Ashley and Cooper rivers so that people could enjoy kayaking and other water sports, or even the development of some riverfront beach areas (Paris does this). We could also have a public pool.

Commercial recreation: Downtown has 1 bowling alley and no movies theaters. There’s no rock climbing wall, arcade, pool hall, and so on. Between the tourists, students, and full and part time residents, there is a market for these things. Commercial businesses could also be park of developing the riverfront. Istanbul has a great riverfront dining and shopping scene along the Bosphorus, where people are as likely to dock their boats and enter through the back as they are to park their cars and enter through the front.

In addition to bringing fun activities to Charleston, this type of development will benefit the community because it is unlikely to occur along King Street. Rather, it will expand the commercial footprint to less frequented areas, bringing money to those areas, and encouraging revitalization.

P       0 Comments            

Re-thinking Historic Preservation

While I whole-heartedly applaud and support the goal of preserving Charleston’s historic character, Charleston’s historic preservation law needs to be re-thought. Too many properties sit in disrepair or vacant and by historic preservation we certainly do not mean blight. The law ought encourage people to maintain their homes and properties’ historic character, but not discourage people from maintaining their homes and properties at all. For example, I agree that we don’t want wood siding replaced with vinyl siding, but of all the building materials available to us today, I imagine there must be a suitable alternative.

Also, the law prevents people from modernizing, weatherizing, and improving the energy efficiency of their homes and properties. Few, if anybody, would know whether or not windows are dual-pane just by looking, yet the law does not allow us to install dual-pane windows, despite the benefits to the individual and city in the form increased energy efficiency, reduced energy usage, lower energy bills, less pollution, and so on.

P       0 Comments            

Keep Downtown Unique And Charming

The first thing I noticed about downtown when I moved from New York a year ago is how unique downtown is and that downtown’s charm comes from this uniqueness. Many of the theaters, stores, restaurants, and galleries, for example, are one of a kind.

The second thing I noticed is how fragile and endangered this is. Walgreens, Vineyard Vines, Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, Subway, Mellow Mushroom, H&M, Forever 21, Chipotle, Brooks Brothers, Apple, and everything in Charleston Place are examples of franchises* making their way downtown.

The problem with this is that once franchises* make their way downtown, they inevitably take over downtown. King street in Charleston is not Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, nor should it be, and I would like it to stay that way.

Franchises* have corporate backing, which is to say money, more money than any family owned, independent, local business will ever have. With that leverage, franchises* can:
i) Charge less for their goods and services than their local competitors, and price their local competitors out of the market. Local businesses will not be able – though they will need – to lower their prices to compete, and will inevitably go broke and out of business;
ii) Afford to pay more in rent than their local competitors, and price their local competitors out of the real estate market. Again, local businesses will not be able – though they will need – to pay higher rents to re-new their leases, and will inevitably go broke and out of business.

Local businesses will disappear, franchises* will take their place, and downtown will look like a mall or like any other city in the world and lose the uniqueness that gives downtown its charm. This will be irreversible.

To prevent this from happening, the city ought pass an ordinance that no franchising* is permitted downtown, at least within a defined area, such as King south of Spring, Market, and East Bay south of Market. This keeps downtown unique and charming as well as has the additional benefit of encouraging urban renewal by pushing franchises* into less developed areas, such as north of Spring, west of King, and East Bay north of Market.

*Term of convenience. Franchises are independently owned and operated, thus, a McDonald’s owned and operated by me is a franchise, whereas a McDonald’s owned and operated by McDonald’s is not a franchise, but a McDonald’s is a McDonald’s, whether or not a franchise, in regard to whether it adds to or detracts from downtown’s uniqueness and charm.

P       0 Comments            

Future of IYWM?

Make “If You Were Mayor” permanent and link to Office of the Mayor as of public connection with government.

Thomas       0 Comments            

Got one of your own?
Share it with Charleston right now!


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Put your idea, initiative or project here if it has to do with such things as:

  • Modes of transportation – cars, bikes, buses, subway, feet, trams, trolleys, Segway, trains, boats, ferries, skateboards, scooter, trucks, vans, balloon, gondola, chair lift, airplanes, drones, wheelchair, golf cart, taxi, pedi-cab, horse, carriage, etc.
  • Transportation infrastructure – bridges, causeways, roads, paths, bike lanes, sidewalks, docks, piers, rails, streets, lanes, passageway, galleria, tunnel.
  • Transportation nodes/stations – airport, ferry landing, bus stop, bike corral, parking garage, bike garage, street parking space, parking lot
  • Exercise related to biking & pedestrian activities


Local civic-minded organizations advocating for transportation-related issues include:

CharlestonMoves CCL


Put your idea, initiative or project here if it has to do with such things as:

  • Mentorship programs – reading, writing, crafts, cooking, storytelling, volunteer opportunities.
  • Job training – apprenticeship, job shadowing, internship opportunities.
  • Skills for public spaces – speakers corner, spelling bee, science fair.
  • Businesses in schools programs – finance, coding, innovation/invention, health fair, robotics, agriculture, cooking/hospitality, entrepreneurship.
  • Incentive programs that relate to grades, school attendance or graduation.
  • Middle/high school youth programs, government simulation – Model UN, debate, mock trial, participatory budgeting, leadership training.
  • Elementary/Middle/High School, education assistance programs – study groups, reading tutoring.
  • Sports/recreation programs – basketball, squash, little league baseball, soccer.
  • Public elementary & secondary educational activities and field trip opportunities in public places, including visits by/to public officials.
  • Preschool options.
  • Living history events.
  • Special needs – Special Olympics, HeartSC, sports training.
  • STEM training using community facilities and programs, such as sailing.
  • In-school medical and dental care.


Local civic-minded organizations advocating for education-related issues include:

MeetingStreetAcademy    WingsForKidsMetanoiaLogo

Economic Development

Put your idea, initiative or project here if it has to do with such things as:

  • Development and overlay zones – job cluster zones, tax-increment financed (TIF).
  • Public funded facilities.
  • Superfund/contaminated/brownfield site cleanup/reuse.
  • Regulatory or tax incentives.
  • Low interest loans & seed funding.
  • Mobile/sidewalk business options – food truck, shoeshine stand, knife sharpening, artist kiosk, lemonade stand, other services.
  • Entrepreneurship/business startup incentives.
  • Alternative energy incentives.
  • Sustainable land use incentives.
  • Civic identity & branding.
  • Local business support programs and incentives.
  • Co-working and shared facility incentives and allowances.


Local civic-minded organizations advocating for economic development-related issues include:


Arts & Culture

Put your idea, initiative or project here if it has to do with such things as:

  • Competitions for infrastructure components – bridges, paving, bike racks, etc.
  • Arts and entertainment venues – outdoor, indoor, temporary, adaptive.
  • Festivals & events – Music, literary, performance, cultural/historical, street/neighborhood, seasonal, spontaneous.
  • Public art – permanent, site-specific, commemorative.
  • Historic markers or events.
  • Way finding & environmental graphics/signage.
  • Civic identity.
  • Museums.


Local civic-minded organizations advocating for arts and culture-related issues include:HICA_logo  ReduxLogo  HistoricCharlestonFoundation



Neighborhoods, Parks & Housing

Put your idea, initiative or project here if it has to do with such things as:

  • Recreation and exercise facilities.
  • Neighborhood gathering places – pocket parks.
  • Affordable housing – Incentives, loan programs, scattered site, micro-housing units.
  • Public health – neighborhood health events, walking and bicycle infrastructure.
  • Neighborhood identity – signage, art, tree planting and streetscaping.
  • Public safety – connectivity for seniors and younger residents.
  • Neighborhood policing – know your officer events.
  • Pop-up parks – Temporary use of streets for occasional neighborhood events.
  • Public resources for neighborhood designated use.
  • Neighborhood festivals and events.
  • Food outlets – corner stores located to serve neighborhoods and vicinity.
  • Community facilities – health clinics.
  • Sidewalk installation and improvements to suit children and aging populations.
  • Community outreach.


Local civic-minded organizations advocating for neighborhoods, parks and housing-related issues include:



City Women

Feb 4, 2017 by If You Were Mayor

On February 2, 2017, If You Were Mayor co-founder Whitney Powers was honored by Historic Charleston Foundation as the 2017 recipient of the award for “Women Who IMPACT Preservation.” The festivities to announce and celebrate the honor occurred in the ballroom of the newly renovated hotel on Marion Square The Dewberry. Over two hundred people attended the event with proceeds directed to Historic Charleston Foundation’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. This ongoing program has tackled such projects as the stabilization of the North Central neighborhood (read more here) and the creation of the Romney Street Garden. The following is a transcript of Ms. Powers’ remarks: