JAMESTOWN -- What does it take to save a dying community?
Residents are working on two different plans to revive this rural Berkeley County town.
Mayor Roy Pipkin wants to attract a Dollar General through an annexation plan that would quadruple the size of the town.
Another group of residents is working to turn an abandoned school into a new retail center.
Something needs to be done. The town's population dropped from 99 in 2000 to 72 in 2010, according to the latest Census figures.
Jamestown extends less than a half mile in each direction from the intersection of S.C. Highways 41 and 45 and U.S. Highway 17A, which are major truck corridors.
About 4,900 cars a day drive through Jamestown on S.C. 41 and 3,550 cars a day on U.S. 17A, according to a 2009 count by planners with the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments.
But the only real reason to stop -- other than the annual Hell Hole Swamp Festival -- is the BP gas station and Kangaroo convenience store at the intersection. The main drag is lined with vacant businesses, as one proprietor after another called it quits and moved on.
A store would go a long way toward keeping residents happy, Pipkin said. But it's hard to draw a store without a bigger customer base.
That's why the mayor drew up the annexation plan. The plan extends the town along S.C. 41 north to the Santee River and south to Tiger Corner Road, east along S.C. 45 to Simmons Road and west along U.S. 17A to Tiger Corner Road.
If residents approve the plan, the town's population would swell to around 400, Pipkin said. That should be enough to attract a Dollar General, he said.
The annexation could proceed immediately if 75 percent of those affected sign up for it. The issue would go up for a vote if 25 percent request it.
Pipkin is holding a community meeting this week hoping to get at least enough support to hold a vote.
New town center
Another group of residents is working on another plan to revive the town.
Their vision revolves around an abandoned school and former community center a bit west of the post office on U.S. 17A.
The group's leaders say they're lining up a rural development loan with U.S. Department of Agriculture to turn the school into a community center and retail complex that will bring new life to the town.
"This will be the heart of Jamestown right here," the Rev. Wilford Kinlaw said last week. "This building will make Jamestown."
Kinlaw, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church of Jamestown, is an officer in the group that holds title to the building, under the umbrella of the Jamestown Savannah Creek Shulerville Community Center. The group has been paying the taxes on the building for years, waiting for the day when somebody would find a way to bring it back to life, he said.
His daughter-in-law, Woodena Curry-Kinlaw, has made the project her full-time mission since moving here from Yonkers, N.Y. "If I'm going to live here, I at least need a corner store," she said.
Last summer she organized a community meeting that drew several hundred people. Jim Woods with the SouthCon Building Group in Mount Pleasant displayed plans and drawings of what the building would look like when it's restored. The vision includes taking off the brick exterior and rebuilding the original wooden siding.
Kinlaw said the brick was added in the 1950s when he was a student there.
The school was built in the 1920s with money from Julius Rosenwald, the Sears and Roebuck magnate. Rosenwald, at the urging of Booker T. Washington, built schools in rural black communities across the South. The official story is that he built them because he wanted to improve humanity. The Kinlaws think Rosenwald wanted blacks to be able to read the Sears catalogs he mailed out, although they still praise his legacy.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation backs the efforts in Jamestown, according to Tracy Hayes of the Charleston office, who heads up the trust's Rosenwald Schools Initiative.
"These old schools have stories that should be preserved and told," she said.
She said Rosenwald intended that the schools would also serve as community centers.
It would cost $2.9 million to restore the building, Curry-Kinlaw said. She said she will get a loan for 80 percent of that amount from the USDA and the rest through a bank. She expects the renovation to start this fall. Profits from the stores would repay the loans, she said.
Kinlaw, the pastor, affirms her vision.
"She's on to something," Kinlaw said. "What we really need is the support of the community. It's in the community's hands."
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.