Community gym on chopping block for future rail yard

(Josh Benser/WCIV)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Students from the Freedom School will lead a march on Wednesday to practice activism and raise awareness to harmful effects they believe could come along with a new rail yard facility in their North Charleston neighborhood.

The City of North Charleston confirms that a rail yard facility is heading for a spot at the old naval base. One building on the chopping block to make way for the new facility is North Charleston's Sterret Hall community gym and auditorium.

"Sterret Hall is in the path of the new proposed public railway facility, which also sits adjacent to the neighborhood that we have spent the last 10 to 12 years to make a better place," said Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia.

Metanoia is a non-profit community development group which invests its resources and educational programs in southern end neighborhoods of North Charleston.

"It is going to bring some opportunities and some liabilities, like loss of this facility that people use everyday for recreation. It's also going to bring light, air, and noise pollution," Stanfield said.

Daily gym-goers at Sterret Hall we spoke with are passionate about their community center.

"I'd hate to see it leave because it provides us with a home away from home," Sterret Hall gym member, Amelia Duvall said. "It gives us energy, powerfulness, motivates us to do better in life. Why would you want to take that away from us?" Sterret Hall gym member, Amelia Duvall said.

Duvall said she's lost more than 30 pounds while working out at Sterret Hall's gym.

"This place is a jewel. It really is. We understand that progress has to come; just give us a place that progress can come to where we can bring our youth and work out their frustrations and aggravations and talk to someone older than them to mentor them," Duvall said.

Ryan Johnson from the City of North Charleston Mayor's Office said there are no plans for another gym in the area, but there are several other basketball courts offered in other community centers in the city. Johnson also said the demolition of Sterret Hall will not be anytime soon, but it will in fact eventually be torn down for the rail yard facility. Palmetto Railways owns the building and surrounding property and currently leases Sterret Hall to the City of North Charleston.

"There are immediate losses of community fitness but also long term losses of crime and places for people to be at out of school," Stanfield said. "It would be a real loss for the neighborhood."

The Metanoia March starts at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday from Mary Ford Elementary with an end location at Sterret Hall followed by a rally with speakers. The public is invited to attend.