11 Apr Arts District?
The Beaufort Arts Council has proposed to City Council that we establish an Arts District in the core of Beaufort known as the Northwest Quadrant. They proposed that more affordable houses and studios will bring vitality to the neighborhood that has been struggling to hold on as residents have moved out and homes left to decay. Currently about 40% of what was once a vibrant community celebrating the city’s authentic diversity is dying and we need to continue working to make improvements.
In 2009 Pete Palmer, with the guidance and support of the beloved John Gadsden, Henrietta Gadson Goode, Dwayne Smalley and many others representing Historic Beaufort Foundation, spent 180 days seeking to understand the challenges in this important neighborhood followed by recommendations. The NEQ Study Committee presented a report including 100 recommendations, many of which the city, hand-in-hand with the Neighborhood Association, have implemented or are currently on the drawing board.
One of the recommendations not yet addressed was to create a palate of approved house plans available to those who own land in the neighborhood but cannot afford the time or money to get necessary approvals.
Another recommendation, on which City Councilman Phil Cromer has been working with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, is to streamline the permitting process within the Conservation District (and throughout the city) which characterizes the NWQ in the context of National Historic Landmark District.
And yet another was to bring artists into the community to help build up its diverse vibrancy.
There are many more challenges and there is no silver bullet. However, the proposal to build more affordable homes for residents, artists and the many young teachers, firefighters, police officers and others who cannot find affordable housing in the city seems like a good next step.
City Council will soon begin discussing the Arts Council proposal which I believe will strengthen the community without challenging its historic character and diversity. It will not solve all of the problems which the neighborhood and the city face. It is a good next step following infrastructure and other improvements in which the city has invested so far.
The proposal will be presented at a work session to which the public will be invited most likely in a week or two. Please join in the discussion as this is important to the growth and vitality of our city while ensuring we maintain our special hometown character.