CIU buys properties in partnership with neighborhoods to fight blight
CIU has completed the last purchase of seven properties on Monticello Road from the I-20 exit along the gateway leading to the campus.
The purchase is a component of a partnership between Columbia International University and neighborhood leaders in north Columbia.
CIU bought the property and has begun a plan to transform blighted, crime-attracting properties on Monticello Road into commercially viable properties that will enhance the area’s appearance, reduce crime and attract significant economic activity.
Abandoned buildings have been demolished and cleanup of the sites has begun. The most recent purchase is a former club that was torn down.
Dr. Mark A. Smith, CIU President, is already talking with businesses that have expressed interest in the properties.
“The business people I’m talking with see vast potential for our community,” Smith said. “Right now our neighbors and students have to drive 20 minutes to get a meal and buy necessities. Companies see a workforce ready to work and consumers ready to buy.”
The idea for revitalization began about a year ago when Andre T. Melvin, pastor of Temple Zion Baptist Church, CIU professor Andre Rogers and community residents began meetings to discuss concerns about vacant buildings, trash, and public safety issues along Monticello Road.
Neighborhoods represented in the meetings included Bookert Heights, Denny Terrace, Forest Heights and Sarah Matthews/Wages Road.
“We identified the problems that were holding us back such as blight and public safety, but we also need economic development, stronger educational support, and communities working together,” Melvin said.
“Dr. Smith and CIU came forward with a plan to buy and redevelop the land. That was an answer to much prayer.”
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has been discussing the location of additional resources to the area and has indicated that a major reduction in crime should occur with the cleanup of these properties.
“We could not be more excited to see these properties being bought and reclaimed for the good of the community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “For years, a club on one of the sites has been a source of complaints and crime. Knocking it down will breathe new life into the area and the community.”
Two priorities are additional lighting along the Monticello Road corridor and additional law enforcement presence.