New Development for First Ward
One more public meeting is all that stands in the way of rezoning the area, one of Columbia's poorest. Residents said they often feel overlooked by the city, but the hope a new project will put them and the First Ward back on the map.
On a hot day, just off Sexton Road, Hattie and Joel Swift's front porch is the perfect place to watch the neighborhood go by.
"They got a community, you know, that's doing all these nice things," said Joel.
The Swifts have lived in the First Ward for only a year, and they might be out of their home by the end of 2006. But, they said what they're making room for is worth it.
"It will be more easy for us to come to the grocery store right down the block, than trying to cross that highway," Joel added.
Dana Battison wants to make all that happen as part of the Covenant Community Development Corp.
"The hope is that people will drive down Garth and stop and connect with this community" she said. "It has great riches to give the city in terms of its people, its experience and its heart. And the chance for people to experience that is a chance for this community to give back to the city."
Plans call for not only a grocery store, but also other independently-owned shops Battison hopes will reflect the community's makeup.
"To be able to say, 'Hey, we have this place now that will help your business grow into something that doesn't just support you, maybe you could actually hire some other people,'" she explained.
Crime kept other businesses away in the past, but Swift believes new development will change that.
"We need something to do in the community by helping the store, shopping and even working there," said Joel Swift.
The final public meeting is set for Saturday, June 24. The Swifts might have to move as soon as November, the earliest Battison said construction could start.