Rapidly gentrifying: Charleston's Westside

A visual tour of a rapidly gentrifying African-American neighborhood in Charleston: Westside


The location of Charleston’s Westside neighborhood is highlighted in yellow.

The Westside is an racially diverse community in Charleston, South Carolina roughly bounded on the east and south by the Septima P. Clark Parkway, on the north by Congress Street, and by the Ashley River to the west. The neighborhood was developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries on land that was once a part of the Pick Pocket Plantation owned by William George Freeman.

Historically a predominantly black community with direct ties to the city’s Gullah Geechee heritage, over 150 residences were destroyed in the neighborhood by the construction of the Crosstown Expressway. Completed in December 1968, the expressway served as a U.S. 17 connection to Interstate 26 while also doubling down as a barrier between predominantly black and white populations north and south of the U.S. 17.

In 1978, the Crosstown Expressway was renamed in honor of Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987). The daughter of former enslaved parents who were married in Jacksonville, Clark was an educator and activist known as the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Today, Charleston is one the nation’s most rapidly gentrifying cities and the Westside is at the forefront of the city’s dramactically changing demographics. Upper King Street, a Westside thoroughfare that served as Charleston’s primary segregation era black business district has become a popular destination for trendy restuarants, bars and nightlife. A drive through the neighborhood’s lesser traveled streets exposes one to many home renovations and single family infill projects currently underway.

Upper King Street

However, a mixed-use development under construction called WestEdge, may be the neighborhood’s most transformational project. When complete, the four million square foot development will be anchored by a new Publix grocery store and directly connect the Westside to Charleston’s Medical District.

The phased master plan of the Westside’s WestEdge mixed-use development.

Next Page: Westside Neighborhood Photographs