Residents’ Voices Heard on West Ashley Library
Preservation-Society , March 27, 2020
The PSC is pleased to share a local success story exemplifying the power of residents’ voices to positively impact the public process. Last month, the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) began soliciting public input on the future of the West Ashley branch library on Windermere Boulevard. Constructed in 1964 on land donated to Charleston County by William H. Ackerman, the one-story, Mid-century Modern library has long been a community center in one of West Ashley’s oldest neighborhoods.
At 4.3 feet below base flood elevation, the library has recently been impacted by storm-related flooding events, notably Hurricane Irma in 2017. Flood mitigation efforts are needed to preserve the library, which Charleston County officials initially stated would not be funded by the $108.5 million allocated for improvement of existing county libraries in 2014. In response to a community forum in February where the County proposed relocating the branch to a new building, West Ashley residents spoke up in force to let the County know that the West Ashley library is important to community life. In an online survey, an overwhelming 96% of residents said the location of the library is critical for neighborhood accessibility, which Windermere resident and College of Charleston professor Ashton Finley underscored in a recent letter to the editor that read:
“Walkable community centers like the library are key components of a prosperous, healthy, livable and sustainable Charleston… The historic library, with its hybrid urban/suburban location and its legacy as a safe place for multiple generations of citizens to enjoy, is a special community asset and deserves preservation and protection.”
As a result of the community’s activism, Charleston County halted all plans for relocation to explore further options for flood mitigation. This is a major win for preservation and livability in West Ashley, and the PSC applauds residents for their engagement and strong defense of this important community center. For now, the City is focusing on stormwater improvements to address flooding issues in the area, but we will keep you informed when conversations reconvene on any future proposals for the library.