Columbia neighborhood prepares for new look

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COLUMBIA — A major effort is in the works to improve a neighborhood in Columbia.

Residents living near the Lynn Street and Garth Avenue intersection are working with employees at the Columbia Community Development Department and other city officials to identify problems with the neighborhood and discuss the Garth, Sexton, Oak and Lynn redevelopment initiative.

“The neighborhood was really excited to have us approach them about redeveloping these lots,” said Randy Cole, who works with the Community Development Department and is one of the main people responsible for organizing the process.

Residents brought their concerns to public meetings hosted at the Centro Latino on Garth Avenue and, in April, gave their final feedback to the city about what they believed were the biggest changes needed.

A new sidewalk has already been built along Garth Avenue, electric poles removed on Lynn Street and substituted for underground wiring, new street lights put up and depleted homes on Lynn Street demolished to create affordable homes that residents have purchased.

Future plans include building new houses on lots next to the Centro Latino, the addition of a bus shelter at the intersection of Garth Avenue and Worley Street, the creation of a green space that can allow for a community garden, exterior repairs to the Centro Latino and the addition of bio-retention basins to control flooding when it rains.

The basins will replace a culvert that has been in place for more than 70 years and has made some residents frustrated with the amount of flooding.

“The neighborhoods flood and the water is just a problem because the area itself floods. The streets flood. The properties flood. So it’s just a problem,” resident Shirley Rhoades said.

Although there’s still some work to do, Rhodes said she is very encouraged about the changes that have already been made.

“People have perceived this part of Columbia as ghetto rundown, but it’s not like that. Yeah, there are some homes that need to be torn down, but to see effort being made to redevelop and get the street looking good. I think our street is setting an example,” she said.

The area will receive a total of around $1 million in city investments, including local and federal sources, grants and programs.

“These funds are directly allocated from the federal government for these specific activities,” Cole said. “Most people I’ve talked with just want us to make sure we’re using these funds appropriately and responsibly and this project is a great way to demonstrate that we’re going out and asking the neighborhood what the needs are and responding to those needs. It’s really great to see the neighborhood working together and taking ownership of working with the city to figure out how they want to reutilize this lot.”

The project will be completed within two years, according to Cole.