Downtown decay poses problem for community
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - There are two distinct sides to downtown Charleston, the postcard perfect homes and the crumbling, rundown houses. Dilapidated buildings near the crosstown aren't just eyesores, they're becoming safety hazards.
Lawrence has been fighting downtown decay for the last 10 years and during that time he's compiled a list of homes that need to go, before someone gets hurt.
Homes like the one on 515 Rutledge Avenue are abandoned, boarded up and even rotting. The City of Charleston says locations like the home on Rutledge are the top of their list. But since a suspicious fire claimed a section in the back of the house in 2007, the home has been in disrepair.
Keane keeps a close eye on all the city's problem homes and he says 515 Rutledge is still classified as fair condition after a four year vacancy.
His process starts with scouting a house by the help of neighbors, police officers or code enforcers that routinely call in to report abandoned homes.
If the house is vacant, Keane's first step is to get the place boarded up, secured and then find the owner.
"We got to make the property safe but these are privately owned properties and these owners do have rights," says Keane. "In a vast majority of these cases you have an owner that doesn't have the means to fix up the property."
Johnson, who is also a volunteer on the Demolition By Neglect Task Force, a group put together by the City of Charleston almost a year ago to combat the issue, will present new strategies to handle dilapidated homes.
Last year, the city tore down 24 homes that they deemed safety hazards and unable to be restored. Johnson says in the last 10 years, 4,000 homes have been renovated under other city programs.
Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.