The tri-county region's LGBTQ community will soon have a space to call its own.
The Alliance for Full Acceptance, Charleston Pride and We Are Family will host a grand opening Saturday for the Lowcountry's first LGBTQ-dedicated office, retail and community space at 1801 Reynolds Ave. in North Charleston.
Historically, the only places dedicated to the LGBTQ community have been clubs and bars, said Chase Glenn, executive director for AFFA. Glenn added there is nothing wrong with those spaces, but it's yet another thing to have a building where three nonprofits can work together to serve the LGTBQ community.
“There’s something powerful about knowing you have the space," Glenn said. "We don’t know exactly what this is going to be. We are sort of in the 'If you build it, they will come’ mode.”
Nijeeah Richardson, executive director of We Are Family, said the move will help raise awareness and visibility of the Lowcountry's LGBTQ community.
"It's going to be monumental," she said.
Saturday's celebration will be 4-7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. It will feature family-friendly indoor and outdoor activities, food trucks, and live entertainment from a local radio station.
Discussions about the hub began earlier this year as We Are Family opened up shop in March. The other two groups, also looking for a stable location, viewed the Reynolds Avenue corridor as an affordable and centralized spot in the region to collaborate and offer a wide-range of community services.
We Are Family hosts peer discussion groups for LGTBQ youth and operates a thrift store that helps fund the organization. Charleston Pride spearheads the annual parade and festival each fall in addition to several other community events throughout the year. AFFA serves an an advocacy group working toward policies that protect LGBTQ residents.
Additionally, one of the buildings will include an open, communal space known as an "equality hub" where other community groups can meet and host programs and events.
The organizations are the latest to find a home in a corridor where revitalization efforts are underway. The Reynolds Avenue Area Merchants Association is working to revive what once was a bustling commercial corridor. The group has seen some signs of success recently with the arrival of restaurants, architectural firms, and photo studios.
Progress also has been made in the Charleston region regarding LGTBQ inclusion, said Lynn Dugan, who founded Charleston Pride.
When Dugan moved to the area more than 15 years ago, there were hardly any spaces where openly gay residents could convene.
“People don’t have to hide anymore," she said.
Still, advocates said they see more work to be done toward LGBTQ inclusion and safety. The equality hub will be near the site where a 29-year-old transgender woman was found shot to death last month. The tragedy presented the opportunity for a line of communication to open up between AFFA and the North Charleston Police Department that didn't exist before, Glenn said.