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Power Of The Past: Saving Charleston's Historical Integrity

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Jim Tether

The Power of the Past: Saving Charleston's Historical Integrity

As you know Mayor Riley, Charleston is a city of rich historical significance. It has taken its honors for being one of the finest historical treasures of America. Rich in history, the city offers lessons in history that surpass book documentations or classroom discussions. Recently, Charleston has seen an economic boom in the commercialization of the city. Due to the rapid growth of tourism in Charleston, the icons which make the city unique are slowly being ignored and with the lack of emphasis on the city's icons, Charleston will soon transform itself into a replica of Myrtle Beach.

For example, King Street is becoming too commercialized for its own good. Too many of the cosmopolitan shops that you can find in many other psychocentric destinations, have taken away appeal from the family owned/ localized boutiques. One thing that also makes Charleston unique is its architectural integrity. Some of the many major tourist attractions like: Rainbow Row, The Battery, and the many historic houses have retained their original architecture and appeal ever since their creation and surprisingly, many of these buildings have withstood floods, hurricanes and even earthquakes. Through historical preservation, these icons help illuminate Charleston's historical significance ever since it has became a major tourist destination and to put them behind for incoming commercial, cosmopolitan shops further complicates the economic imbalance of the Charleston tourism economy.

Indeed bringing in these shops and types of businesses create more revenue and taxation for the city, they do not add to the overall historical significance of the city. Moreover, they are in actuality a leakage to the local economy. For example, Victoria Secret's, the Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, and Steve Madden are all apart of a larger corporation that are headquartered in another city and as a result, part of the revenue is divvied between the respective corporations and Charleston, leaving Charleston with only a portion of the revenue that is taxable.

Arguably, if those shops were that of local ownership, then Charleston would benefit even more. Being locally owned and operated, more money would be not leak out from the local economy however more will circulate through it. How so? The local operator would in turn take their revenue earned and spend in the local economy by buying goods and services from the local market and from those funds; then that money spent is again circulated back through the local economy.

In addition the rise in commercialization has caused a separation in Charleston's oldest shopping district, King Street. Walking down Upper and Lower King Street, I noticed that the two areas were completely different. In Upper King Street, were numerous cosmopolitan shops, hotels, and restaurants but in Lower King Street district were many dilapidated family-owned/local shops and restaurants. In a survey we conducted, we asked visiting tourists which areas of King Street did the mainly stay at or visit while they are in Charleston. Not to our surprise, many of them did not even attempt to venture onto the Lower King Street district because it was dilapidated and unappealing to their eyes.

Mayor Riley, it is imperative that you incorporate both districts into one because as of now, they exist as two separate markets. Yes it is okay for them to be different, but to be totally separate weakens the city's economic potential. With the proper planning and zoning, the King Street district can become the back-bone of Charleston's tourism economy. We suggest that it is to your advantage

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