Residents demand preservation of historic Summerville site

Summerville residents say they want to preserve their town, but Dorchester County officials say they want more development.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 7:23 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2023 at 11:28 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Summerville residents say they want to preserve their town, but Dorchester County officials say they want more development.

Residents say they want to save their historic town and the location of a Veteran’s memorial in response to redevelopment plans of the town’s headquarters that’s been in the works.

“It’s very significant that this property stays the way it is,” Adraan Kwist of Summerville said.

Officials say 500 N. Main St. is the centralized hub for Dorchester County and is set to be redeveloped into two new office buildings, a hotel, retail spaces, multifamily housing and a 450-space parking garage.

“The traffic is already at gridlock,” Kwist said. “It’s going to create a lot more traffic problems.”

The site is also home to a Veteran’s memorial. Heyward Hutson and his wife Evelyn of Summerville say their immediate family has a total of 135 years in active service combined.

“And I think that should count for something,” Heyward Hutson said. “It’s not, we are not unique. There are lots of families.”

The main building was also once the old Summerville hospital.

“My father died here in 1942 when I was 6 years old,” Hutson said. “...And people who worked here should be remembered.

Dorchester County Vice Chairman David Chinnis says the county has no intention of demolishing the Veteran’s memorial, but it could move to a different location on the property.

“When looking around at Summerville and putting this memorial at a preeminent location where it can be seen at a stop sign,” Chinnis said. “I mean, that’s where people put campaign signs. That’s where people put anything they want to be seen is where people stop and can see it. They don’t put it in the middle of the road, in the middle of a block because you don’t see that.”

Chinnis says this site is in the tax increment financing district where leftover tax dollars will go towards improvements. He says it’s essentially like development paying for itself. He says the total revenue should be about $59 million in the next 15 years with the new plan.

He was asked what his response was to the preservation concerns.

“Sometimes you have to look a little bit more deeply at what you’ve said in the past and understand that it applies to everyone,” Chinnis said. “You don’t get excluded from your own comments just because you feel better about it.”

Chinnis says now that they’ve accepted a developer, that developer has to build a new building for the offices already located in the main building. He says there’s no timeline of when this entire project will be finished as of now.