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Old 05-03-2008, 10:39 PM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
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Default Break down the Charleston neighborhoods for me - still good or bad or?

If anyone has seen previous posts from me before they know I was born and raised in Charleston. I was one of the last graduating classes from Charleston High School (1984) before it was eventually torn down.

Shortly after graduation I moved to Atlanta, and in my first few years here, I visited Charleston regularly. I saw the transformation of Capitol and Quarrier Streets from beige brick Blahs into tree lined nice looking lanes during my visits. But around 15 years ago my father died, and I haven't been home since his funeral for a variety of reasons.

I have a couple of relatives who still live in that area who have told me about how some of the neighborhoods have gone down hill over the years. But I'd like to hear from others who I don't know who might offer a different perspective. I'm 42 now and Atlanta is a much more extreme city than I care to think about spending much more time in. I may consider returning "home" one day, but I would like to live in the city again, and not have to resort to the burbs in-between Charleston and Huntington like I hear so many have. It would be nice to know there are still some nice neighborhoods left inside the city.

I grew up on the West side, near the intersection of West Avenue and Washington Street. It was actually a great neighborhood in the mid-70s, but I hear it's pretty much the pitts now. For a while I also lived in Kanawha city near the intersection of Noyes Avenue and 57th street, but from the Google Earth program, it looks to me like a Super Walmart got built right across the way from there (here, that usually brings a neighborhood down a bit). What are these two areas really like now, from others perspectives and eyes?

I'll assume that the Washington Avenue area of Kanawha City is still decent, as is South Hills (if you can afford it). But what other intown neighborhoods are still ok? I'll probably be in my late 40s before I actually swing this, and I'd hate to leave the crime armpit of Atlanta just to move back home into a neighborhood as bad as what I'm trying to get away from here.
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Old 05-04-2008, 12:37 AM
 
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I just relocated here from NY, and as you can imagine, WV's version of crime is kinda cute when you stand it up against inner cities like the bronx or gangland LA.
What kind of neighborhood are you looking for in terms of space, vibe, and long term? I got the impression its mostly urban. E Quarrier street and E virginia street are very stately looking, and there seems to be some effort to bring in some nightlife thereabouts, jumping distance to the town center mall. I saw a few cafes and bookstores there, and perhaps a club or two, but being a tourist and lost most of the time I wasn't so focused on that as much as trying to find which one way street to turn on. I saw an apartment on quarrier street advertized for $350 month, but I never did look inside since home prices have been so attractive. Can't seem to park downtown without someone shaking me down for the privilege. East side washington ave I can't go to the ATM without someone pan handling for beer money.

I'm on the west side in the hills, but in a section of the hills thats a bit of an enclave and a neighborhood thats tight and sticks together. The strategy they used is to never allow any house to be vacant by buying up nearby properties and only selling to owner occupied bidders. They don't want out of state rental investors here, and I see full well why when I head down the block into the next enclave over. Some realtors did warn me away from the flats of west side north of kanawha river, south of washington street, which appears to have an over abundance of HUD forclosures with massive problems. When I drove through those neighborhoods I had no trouble at all except the odd looks coming my way with NY plates. In fact, the one thing every west virginian I've met so far has asked: why on earth did you come here from NY? LOL. I guess to them NY is greener grass. When I mention paying 7k a year in property tax for the right to live in a crack infested 200K hovel, they count their blessings.
If money were no object, I saw a wonderful neighborhood on the river in dunbar west, the house I'd love to have being $350k with its own boat slips and gazebo. Nice but beyond my means...
The trend seems to be the south part of south charleston because the shopping and building is happening there, and the school system is the best performer (I believe a realtor said in the whole state). Closer to the river in south charleston looks kind of seedy and frankly they drive more aggressively than the worst NY'r I've ever had the displeasure of being sideswiped by. Hey, maybe they're a transplant too??? lol

I get the impression from the younger crowd here that its too much work patching up an old house, and if they have to be in debt for a mortgage, they might as well get a new house built without all the headaches of 100 yrs of backyard mechanic repairs and dicey neighborhoods. They tend to be impatient for ammenities as well, maybe a sign of the times in a credit card generation? I dunno. To their credit, most of the older construction is plagued with lead or water damaged foundations from poor drainage that cascade into a host of other problems, so I can see where they're coming from on that issue. I've also discovered that insulation didn't exist when these houses were built, which would explain why despite having a lower mortgage payment than the rest of the country, the difference in savings gets eaten up in utility expenditures, even if you're just a renter.
Traffic in charleston daytime is tame especially if compared to atlanta or nyc. Locals here complain about jobs situation, and in general, west virginians seem depressed about economics with the exception of those who made a job for themselves through sheer determination. Maybe Mojo notices, maybe he doesn't. The kid on my block who just attended prom last night told us he was heading to beckley for work this summer. I get the impression college wasn't in his mind, but he didn't volunteer and I didn't ask. I can't help but wonder where his dad is at this time in his life, but that's happening all over the country.
The odd thing I noticed about my real estate hunt is that it's not one area concentrated thats good or bad, but pockets of great and icky that are staggered throughout the city. I consider myself fortunate to find a neighborhood who cares about itself to defend it's property value yet still reasonably priced enough for me to afford.
It's all where you put your collective values, afterall. You don't have to be a millionare to care or make the best of what you have. It won't happen unless people like me, my neighbors, and folks like you insist upon it.

So waddaya say, native son? Are you coming home to make a home, or waiting for someone else to do it?
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Old 05-04-2008, 09:48 AM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
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Grew up in Charleston, now live in the DC area but go back several times a year to visit friends and family. Some Charleston neighborhoods have indeed changed for the worst but for the most part the city still has some decent areas to reside in.

I will absolutely agree with harborlady's comment about Charleston neighborhoods, there really aren't any solid great areas just good mixed with bad, usually in a very short driving distance. I think it has to do with years of just flat out decline in city population, there aren't really any neighborhoods that are larger today than 20years ago. Charleston's population was 85,000 in 1960 and is now just barely hanging on at around 50,000. Some of the growth moved out to the suburbs, but many MANY others simply left the area for better opportunities. Charleston is somewhat unique in that the entire region has lost population, dropping from about 335,000 in 1980 to 304,000 as of 2007. Charleston, WV Metropolitan Statistical Area (CBSA) Population and Components of Change

The west side "hill" area that harborlady mentioned above is still indeed a rather nice area, especially around Edgewood. I have some relatives that live up on the hill still and their neighborhood is still quite nice with mostly childless couples and even a few families who have lived in the outskirts of town for a few years but recently moved back in. The only negative thing about the west side hill is the horrible schools. Althogh my relatives keep telling me about this latest consolidation push that will "change the area." I'm not trying to be negative but even if the elementary schools are improved, it simply doesn't get much worse than Stonewall Jackson Middle School or Capital High School.

The West Side "flats" area you are referring to growing up is now a sesspool of crime, horrible schools, and declining property values (if they can go any lower). The entire West Side village district (the one around Chas. Dept Store) was still fairly lively even when I was a kid in the late 80s but it is now full of boarded up store fronts and pawn shops.

South Hills is still "The Hill" full of people who like to pretend they live in some exclusive area that is somehow seperate from the rest of Charleston. I had many friends in South Hills growing up however I never have liked the attitude up there. The value of their homes in the"exclusive" neighborhoods there would there would MAYBE buy a condo or a townhouse in an average neighborhood up here in DC, nothing more, so the chi chi attitude they give off is somewhat amusing. But I guess every place has at least one area like that. The plus side is the schools are excellent, convenience to downtown/southridge is unmatched and there is a neat albeit very small village district with a few decent shops and restaurants.

Kanawha City to be perfectly honest my favorite neighborhood in Charleston. It is convenient to downtown, has a variety of retail options on MacCorkle Avenue, nice schools, and great tree lined streets full of young families. That large Wal-Mart like thing you mentioned on Google Earth is a Lowe's, I think there is also an Arbys and a Cracker Barrell there as well. At one time I believe they wanted to build a wally world there but neighrbood grievances killed it, they got another big box instead.

The East End is a hit or miss neighborhood. BEAUTIFUL victorian homes within close proximity to downtown and the state capital. The only drawback is it is a widely divided neighborhood going from very nice to somewhat rough in a matter of 1 or 2 blocks. Although believe me the crime PALES in comparison to the crime of DC or Atlanta, it is still something to think about.

Good luck with your decision about moving back, I'm sure it will require A LOT of thought.

Last edited by NOVAmtneer82; 05-04-2008 at 10:01 AM..
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Old 05-04-2008, 01:14 PM
 
Location: Winfield, WV
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I've lived in the Kanawha Valley since i turned 18 and moved here for college, so that makes my 9th year living here.

Dunbar is where i stayed for two years during college, stay along West Virginia and Kanawha Avenues, and you still have nice well kept housing there near the river. Once you get past Grosscup, it's a mixed bag. The hill side of the tracks is in bad shape for the most part.

I spent a year living off Edgewood Road, and still like it there all the way up to Cato Park. West Hills still has some nice stretches around Matthews Av too.

South Hills is still the place to be in Charleston, with sprawling additions to Fox Chase and Quarry Creek, make for premier living if you can afford it.

I decided to move to West Gate in Cross Lanes after college, and stayed there for one year, good housing development in CL, but it's still unincorporated and Kanawha County Sherrif Dept lost control of the area, and breaking and enterings happen there nightly.

Currently living in the Highlawn District in Saint Albans, bought and have been restoring a 70 year old house for the past 16 months. I've been pleasantly suprised in the quality of life here, and have extremely nice neighbors, with a mixture of older residents and young families here.
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:05 PM
 
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silka I know what you mean about dunbar- I couldn't believe the difference in waterfront property from laid back mansions of west side dunbar where the elementary school is VS the east side where you're hard pressed to see anyone taking care of their homes.

Out of state real estate investors seem to degrade whole slews of houses with jury rig repairs, don't care what characters they rent to so long as they get their money. Vacant property either gets vandalized or commondeered by squatting addicts. I guess some folks won't call the cops for fear of retaliation. I've been told the laws favor tennents and not property owners in WV, and maybe the scales have to get balanced better. I'm a fan of live and let live peaceloving, but being a pushover doesn't cut it with me. I make a lousy pacifist despite my upbringing once you cross that line. My guess is the way to fix this is legislature to penalize deadbeat out of state investors with higher tax premiums when they pollute a neighborhood with nonsense. Have a better idea? please share!

Honestly, though, I didn't come to WV looking for upscale, because that's the mentality I was looking to avoid. I'm more about what is it I really need than keeping up with the joneses crowd. So as much as the RE agents thought they knew what someone from NY would want, it took them a bit to realize that not all that glitters is gold. They assumed I'd have to want south charleston or teays valley- they were wrong.

I've lived through riots, earthquakes, 60 ft seas in the gulf of alaska, the perfect storm, 9-11, and having a terrorist target on my back from my job for years since. Just what do you think WV can dish out that I haven't already survived? I ain't skeered, and have been blessed with a mind that can amuse itself indefinately! lol

My doorbell just rang a bit ago. The neighbors didn't see my front door open all day and wanted to make sure I was ok. I am truly blessed.
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Old 05-04-2008, 08:23 PM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
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Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
I just relocated here from NY, and as you can imagine, WV's version of crime is kinda cute when you stand it up against inner cities like the bronx or gangland LA.
Well, sure - and compared to Atlanta's crime it's more tame, too. But you do have to remember that I grew up in Charleston in the 70s/80s, so I still have these memories that "froze" at a certain point about certain areas. Even though I've seen some pretty bad junk here in Atlanta (our news could have a 24/7 shooting channel), it would/will still shock me to go to West Avenue and see the stuff that's happened to my old neighborhood.


Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
What kind of neighborhood are you looking for in terms of space, vibe, and long term? I got the impression its mostly urban.
I lived intown in Atlanta for a few years when I first moved here. Got into it when I was young, but as crime continued to increase, I moved further and further out. I'm 25 miles outside the city and the crime has found it's way here on a reasonably big level, so I figure if it continues I'll just leave the entire area completely. You can escape crime - it's a part of life, but there are limits. Atlanta metro can be insane sometimes.

I like "urban" but not 100% city freaky urban. Tame urban, I guess.


Quote:
Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
So waddaya say, native son? Are you coming home to make a home, or waiting for someone else to do it?
I'm eventually going to make it up there. Logic tells me to pay off some debt I have here first, and come up with a plan on how I'd actually make a living up there. It'll work out eventually. I've now spent more than half my life in Atlanta so it may actually be more of a culture shock for me to move back home than it was when I moved here initially, but I'm getting closer and closer to wanting that shock.
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Old 05-04-2008, 08:36 PM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
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Originally Posted by mtneeratheart View Post
The west side "hill" area that harborlady mentioned above is still indeed a rather nice area, especially around Edgewood. I have some relatives that live up on the hill still and their neighborhood is still quite nice with mostly childless couples and even a few families who have lived in the outskirts of town for a few years but recently moved back in. The only negative thing about the west side hill is the horrible schools.

The West Side "flats" area you are referring to growing up is now a sesspool of crime, horrible schools, and declining property values (if they can go any lower). The entire West Side village district (the one around Chas. Dept Store) was still fairly lively even when I was a kid in the late 80s but it is now full of boarded up store fronts and pawn shops.
Sad to hear about the old neighborhood. Back then, you had J.E. Robins Elementary school up on the hill I THINK on Beech Avenue. From what I hear that school is long gone. Then to the West a couple of blocks was Woodrow Wilson Jr. High, and it was Stonewall Jackson HIGH school to the East back then (before Capitol High). Back in the 70s all of them were considered decent schools. Our house on West Avenue was on a hill, but very close to where it bottomed out into Washington Street, West. I used to talk to someone online who was a photographer (that's what I do on the side sometimes), and she was going to go take a pic of my old house, but when she heard the address (807 West Ave) she was afraid she might get shot if she was seen taking a pic of it. That sounds um.. bad. I THOUGHT she was joking!

Hmmmmm VERY old memories coming back now - I just now remembered that for the first three years of my life I lived on "Main Street". I think it was 321 Main Street. It was a smaller house with a tran brick 1 story building right next to it. Dang - funny how you remember stuff like that. We moved when I was 3, but I remember it. Looking at Google, that's near Main, Glenwood, and Central. Let me guess - bad neighborhood now.

Lowes isn't too bad, maybe I can move back to Kanawha City. Not sure I'd want that particular house on Noyes Avenue again. I remember we lived right across the street from a place called "Highlands Hospital", which treated mental disorders. I could look right out my bedroom window upstairs and see right into their rec room as a teen (GREAT view for a kid - yippie). LOL

Ok, side note - did they ever catch the nutball who was sniping people atthe gas stations a while back?? My friends here just gave me the odd look over that one. Seems the only time Charleston makes the news down here is when something like that happens, or someone tries to sell their baby for crack or something. They all think I come from the land of Deliverance (as in the movie).
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Old 05-04-2008, 10:30 PM
 
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Default the constant is change

Greg I gotta say WV has always gotten a bum wrap, and IMO, it's because they refused to play into BS of the times (whether taxation, slavery, corporate oppression- whatnot). Popular hobby some have of berating WV as a polish joke (yes, I am 1/6th polish) says more about them than it does WV.
Anyhoo, I grew up in the dirt road rural parts of suffolk county long island (NY) before lifestyles of the rich and famous crowd destroyed it with over development. You know, that place where amityville horror and 'long island lolita' shot a married woman to steal her husband? lol Gawd they'll never live that one down. I thought the sniping nutball was in DC? The news isn't interested in good news no matter where you go. Fearmongering is their daily bread.

It's important to remember when walking down memory lane, that the elementary school desks did not shrink, it is WE who grew. Nothing stays the same without a diligent commitment to preservation. Sometimes it's about how times change, technology changed, values changed, but sometimes it's really all about us- where we're at in our growing, and not the place. Know what I mean? So yes, there is bound to be culture shock on many levels, but don't think you're alone in that, because it happens to us all. Elvis the pelvis didn't really bring this country to ruin with rock and roll as our great grannies predicted. Jerry Springer is NOT the real america, either.

I looked on the map and found west ave, which still has the school on beech ave listed. The houses on that section of red oak are very well cared for, and don't have anything to do with whats going on the far westerly side of red oak. Police raids for drugs have been reported there. The hill is slipping on livingston st. taking at least two houses for a ride.

I heard some talk about how the schools are going to be redistricted somehow, but I don't know what that means in terms of new building locations and what happens to the old. The elementary school near cross streets costello/watts is in question. It could go either way. The road was not made for bus traffic so the neighbors would prefer a fire dept or park there. I'm too new here to know the politics locally, and am reminded daily how much I've got to learn. Thankfully everyone is so helpful I'm never lost for long.

The neighborhoods that are fine are the ones where residents stubbornly invest in their neighborhood. They stick together and won't allow anyone to drag them down. You're either a believer or you are not kinda thing. Not unlike 'in god we trust' faith. I put my money where my mouth was is all I can say. I clearly see the value charleston has even when others can't. I'm childless at the moment, but should I be graced with motherhood, a bad school would only make me home school. The acceptable level is HERE, and that's ALL.

kanawha city is where the realtors I met bought their own homes. The malls there are busy and the interstate moves well throughout the whole area. The shoney's by 35th st bridge is ick and might wind up losing their franchise over it before the health dept steps in, but a few mom and pop cafe's are adding more personality to the area. I even found a place where they make authentic french crepes, strong seattle coffee, and its standing room only for sunday brunch just about the whole day. I can't recall their name but they're a few doors down from Penn station subs tucked into a side street off of MacCorkle. WiFi in the cafe's from downtown to kanawha city are pretty popular.
By and large, sentiments here seem to want new and brighter stores, malls, culture. I'm getting the impression from younger people that they don't want to feel left behind from what's new and exciting, and less reverent for what went before them as I was raised. It's a mistake to insist ambition humble itself to 'getting by', which I think WV youth are really saying. At least thats my take on it. I remember resenting my dirt roads for a time dreaming about my chance for college in NYC. I can laugh now, how it seemed an impossible dream, so scary costing more money than I'd ever seen. Didn't ambition bring you to atlanta, if you think about it? Then comes the day when your ambition isn't as important anymore, just the money isn't enough, priorities change, your happiness redefined as... go ahead and fill in that blank.
blessings,
kelley
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Old 05-05-2008, 08:12 AM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
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Originally Posted by harborlady View Post
I thought the sniping nutball was in DC?
There was the nutburger in DC, but there was one locally in Charleston. Just so you will know the story, HERE is a link to it.

The thing about Charleston that always got me was that it was somewhat (and I hear maybe still is to a point), stagnant. Now, a slow pace of life certainly isn't always a bad thing.

When I moved to Atlanta, I was (and still am) overwhelmed at just how much crap they can build here each and every year. The metro area here has been adding 60,000 to 150,000 people per year since I moved here in '84. There were 1.8 million people here when I moved here - now there are 5.1 million people in roughly that same area - it's insane. You can be away from a certain part of town here for one year, then go back, and they've built 15 shopping centers, three 35+ story highrise condos, and two 4-lane roads in the year you hadn't been there! Crazy. Since I left Charleston, I think they literally have built ONE highrise downtown - in Atlanta, they've built something like oh, 35 highrises since I moved here. Where does the money come from? Geez!

So in that sense, the culture shock is very extreme. You go from one area that has almost ZERO growth, to an area that builds the equivalent of an entire downtown Charleston every 6 months. Then to move back to the zero growth again... it's kind of like going from a steam room and jumping into a cold lake. LOL.. you have to make SURE you're ready for it.

One alternative I had considered was Chattanooga, TN. Ever watched one of those "alternate universe" episodes on Star Trek? Go to Chattanooga. Same size roughly as Charleston - sits on a river the same size as the Kanawha - surrounded by mountains. They even had an old Woolworth on their main street with an old black iron clock in front of it, just like the old Woolworth building on Capitol Street. A native Charlestonian might go to Chattanooga and go, "Woooo... this is creepy weird!". The one difference though, is that with Chattanooga being only 2 hours either way from Atlanta or Nashville, they have a more thriving tourism industry, so downtown they have a nice Aquarium and very active riverfront park area with restaurants, clubs, boat rides, and you actually see people walking around after 5pm.

It would be an alternate-Charleston "fix" to move to, but there's one catch - with Atlanta's continued explosive growth, it's entirely possible that Chattanooga will in 20 years almost be a suburb of Atlanta. It already gets some of the "spillover" crime from it. So, one thing to consider.

Anyway - good info everyone about the neighborhoods. Let's me know what's going on (or not) back home, and gives me things to think about when planning where I'm going to wind up in the future. It won't be HERE (Atlanta) I know, so, I might be returning to the hills.
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Old 05-05-2008, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Winfield, WV
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Wow, this has turned into quite the deep and informative thread. AtlGreg, i have a buddy at work who's daughter just moved from Charleston to Chattanooga, and he always goes and visits her. He's also shared some of the resemblances of the two cities with us.
I can see how Chattanooga is faster paced than Chucktown though. Especially with the interstate traffic they get on I-75, i'm sure it's a big tourist area with the Mountains and outdoorsy feel to it. Kinda like the "last stop in the smokies before you hit the coastal piedmont!" For those soutbound travellers.

Lately i've been kind of turned off from urban sprawl, i don't mind what Putnam County has turned into becoming a bedroom community to Hunt/Chas but i'm not exactly in favor of going out there and purchasing a huge sum of farm land and turning it into a big residential area that in 30 years will become a rundown neighborhood that nobody wants to move to.

Urban renewal seems like the right approach. Charleston has an excellent infrastructure, just needs repolished, replanned. Tear down the old decrepit buildings if they are beyond repair, and re-build on top of that space.

With the bulding of the Clay Center downtown, the Appalachian Power Park, it gives us young folk reason to be in Charleston after dark. Did you see that the County is building a new state of the art public library downtown too? It's going to be a great asset and will help re-beautify Leon Sullivan Way.

Charleston needs to focus some funds on transforming Kanawha Boulevard into two lane road, instead of four lanes, which is unecessary. And adding some business to the mouth of the Elk River, take advantage of the natural resources. Other cities would die to have our rivers and mountains as a backdrop.
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