Heather Hodges Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor

Heather Hodges is the new executive director of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission. Provided

The group charged with preserving the culture of the enslaved Africans who worked the coastal rice plantations while also increasing economic opportunities is getting a new leader with multiple talents.

Heather Hodges, an administrator of a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in Washington, D.C., will take over Nov. 6 as executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, which is headquartered on Johns Island.

She is also a photographer who documents African, Afro-Latino and Hispanic cultures.

The corridor, which extends from Florida to North Carolina, has business potential as interest in African American tourism has been growing. But at the same time, many residents are wary of any outside influences that threaten their rural way of life and traditions.

Congress created the commission in 2006. It’s partially funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior and managed by the National Park Service as a National Heritage Area, which combines heritage conservation, recreation and economic development.

Hodges grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and has been serving as pro bono counsel for the Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia.

She will succeed J. Herman Blake, a founding member of the commission who has been executive director since 2015.

Dixie Furniture plans (copy)

Plans for the former Dixie Furniture store on King Street call for retail on the first floor and 50 hotel rooms above it and in a new building behind it. Dave Munday/Staff

Hotel plans

Plans for a hotel in the former Dixie Furniture store on Upper King Street are moving ahead.

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A request to tear down the vacant retail store at 529 King is on Wednesday's agenda of the Board of Architectural Review. The showroom on King Street dates to 1948, according to the request.

Plans call for new retail space facing King Street, with 50 hotel rooms above and behind it.

Dixie closed its downtown store in May after 71 years on the peninsula. Connecticut-based 529 King Investors LLC bought the 24,000-square-foot property for $6.75 million. 

The city Board of Zoning Appeals granted a special exception for retail and hotel rooms in June. The board is required to grant the exception if the project meets the legal requirements laid out by council in the zoning ordinance.

Wednesday's meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. in the Gaillard Municipal Center at 2 George St.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.