Persistence – that’s what Aiken City officials say is needed to successfully continue its Northside Initiative which was one of many things discussed during the first of Council’s two-day retreat.
Work completed and to be done in Northside neighborhoodsCity of AikenCrosland ParkWork completed:• 12 homes renovated• 9 waiting renovation• 6 vacant lots (1 community garden, 2 Safe Route to Schools lots)• 7 homes rented (3 renovated)• Repair of several sewer sections• New sewer lines in street, water services, curb, gutter and sidewalk on Aldrich Street from Sommers Street to Hahn AvenueFuture:• Renovate community center house• Complete renovations of 9 homes in inventory• Renovate 4 rental homes when tenants move• Complete 4 Capital Project Sales Tax sewer line replacements• Leadership Aiken County Class 2012-2013 adopted Safe Route to Schools property lotsToole HillWork completed:• 31 homes built• Water mains replaced on Dillon and Toole• New meters and services for water• New sewer services, street lights, curb and gutter, landscaping and sidewalk improvementsFuture:• Expand along Dillon, Cox, Toole, McCormick• Refurbish not build new • Continue water main and service replacement• Develop property at Hampton and McCormickEdgewoodWork completed:• 3 homes constructed• 11 additional lots cleared• Sidewalk installed along Sundy from Hampton to Kershaw, along Hampton from Horry to Sundy and along Kershaw from Hampton to York.• Storm sewer installed from Sundy to Hampton on Sumter• Water main replaced on SumterFuture:• Construct storm water control• Build 11 new homes• Rehabilitate 25 homes
The 27th Annual Horizons meetings commenced Friday afternoon at the Rye Patch and staff updated Council on the project, which kicked off in 2009, to improve the Northside of the city.
Engineering and Utilities Director Larry Morris reviewed what work has been done in various Northside neighborhoods. He began by introducing the City’s new Northside Development Services Project Coordinator Leslie Wilcher and George Grinton, engineering and utilities director-elect who will take over when Morris retires in May. Both Wilcher and Grinton will play a big role in the future of this project.
Crosland Park, which was most widely discussed, has seen the renovation of 12 homes which are now listed with local Realtors – nine more homes are lined up for renovation. These homes, which date back to the 1950s, were revamped and made more energy efficient by the City in an effort to influence positive change in the neighborhood.
Grinton said they have established more realistic pricing to the refurbished homes based on today’s market. The homes were about $90,000 in 2010 but they have dropped into the $80,000 range after Realtors expressed concern with the price being too high.
Grinton said when he first started talking to Realtors about these homes, they said many people didn’t want to move to Crosland Park because it’s considered unsafe. Grinton told them about the impact of Public Safety’s Safe Communities program on the Northside.
“In the past year, the request for services from Public Safety has gone down (in these neighborhoods),” Grinton said. “They (the Realtors) actually got excited and feel there is potential in Crosland Park.”
The original goal for Crosland Park was to fix up 100 to 150 out of the 550 houses in that neighborhood. Councilman Dick Dewar said he wondered if the goal of renovating a few homes was enough activity to make a strong enough impact on Crosland Park but after hearing the presentation on Friday, said he’s feeling more optimistic and willing to give it a chance.
Another neighborhood that has been a point of focus is Toole Hill, and it’s considered a success story to the City – a total of 31 homes has been built through the initiative.
“We renewed a neighborhood that needed it and we want to continue because we’ve got a good thing going on over there,” said Morris. “The community has lifted itself up. It’s a very exciting project there.”
Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said that Toole Hill was once one of the worst crime areas in the City and it’s now something the residents are proud of.
“Had we not done anything then, where would it be now?” Cavanaugh asked. “It was definitely the right thing to do.”
The plan now is to refurbish some of the homes in the Toole Hill neighborhood.
In Edgewood, three homes have been constructed and 11 additional lots have been cleared.
Councilman Reggie Ebner suggested that, as they continue the Northside project, they should look at how the plan has changed since 2009. He mentioned that the ideas for how the homes would be renovated and priced as well as the market itself has transformed over the last few years.
Other plans for the Northside Initiative include Eustis Park development, the construction of a senior and youth center on that side of town and other infrastructure projects.
Grinton said funds from the EPA Climate Showcase Communities Grant and the Community Development Block Grant are a few sources of money to go toward the Northside Initiative. Several projects within the initiative are also listed under the Sales Tax Capital Program.
The road projects were also discussed. Design work for the Whiskey Road and Powderhouse Road connector is projected to begin in 2015 with right-of-way acquisition and construction to tentatively start in 2016.
A project to connect Neilson Road to the Walmart parking lot has also been proposed to help alleviate Whiskey Road traffic. That project is under consideration by Walmart at this time.
Horizons will continue at 8:30 a.m. today at the Rye Patch located at 100 Berrie Road.
The meeting is open to the public.