"We commend them for that," Watts said of CURA's assistance to HOPE. "They were some of the most blighted structures -- and some of them were inhabited."
Projects involving housing haven't been met without challenges. Building on West Side property isn't always financially lucrative, which makes it a hard sell. Edwards said it's also difficult to find those with either the assets or the credit to build or buy houses there.
"Housing is very affordable in Charleston," Edwards said. "Someone can buy a house in South Hills and not have the risk of moving into a neighborhood that is still uncertain which direction it's going to go, although I think it's improving."
Vriendt said many properties on the West Side are "upside-down." This means the value of the lots themselves is much less than what it would cost to build a new house or structure there.
"The fear that it will be worth the same or less 10 years from today; why would anybody do that? Most people will not," Edwards said. "The challenge is overcoming the practical and the image issues."
Small, closely placed lots are difficult to build on by today's standards. Many of those on the West Side wouldn't accommodate a modern home, and acquiring multiple lots can complicate the process.
"They were very small, very modest homes, that, frankly, wouldn't be built today," Edwards said of the older houses on the West Side.
Watts and Hardy expressed a need for the city and CURA to make up for what are considered past ills.
Making the West Side Urban Renewal Plan a top priority is an opportunity for CURA to make up for the dismantling of the Triangle District -- a predominantly black neighborhood bordered by the Elk River, Donnally, Laidley and Lee streets that was razed for commercial redevelopment in the 1970s.
"The city of Charleston and CURA's [plan] is an incredible opportunity to make amends for what many of us feel was a past injustice," Watts said.
Hardy said CURA and its Board of Directors have failed the West Side.
"Some of us who went to those CURA meetings and helped get people there and got people to talk about what they wanted [in the renewal plan], we feel betrayed by CURA," Hardy said.
Edwards said there is a big push on the West Side for long-term social and economic reform, such as its community development school pilot project that allows for education reforms in five of its schools. But, he added there are projects CURA can implement immediately and farther down the road that can add to the effort.
"It never happens quickly enough," Edwards said, "but then, it took decades to get in this condition. It's going to take a couple decades to get out of it."
Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.