Ridgeway neighbors win decades-long fight for improvement project

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COLUMBIA - Neighbors in central Columbia are finally seeing a plan for change after decades of advocacy. Columbia Public Works debuted its plan Thursday for renovating an alley north of Third Avenue.

Pat Kelley lives in a house that backs up to the alley. She said she has been pushing for the dirt and gravel space to be paved for about 20 years.

“The fact that this is actually being paved after all these many years shows that if you just wait long enough things will happen,” Kelley said.

Kelley is the treasurer of the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association. She said she has spent years working with city officials and is encouraged by the progress.

“I’m delighted about it because it shows that the city is really interested in investing in this area, at last,” Kelley said.

The project manager, Allison Anderson, said the new development of two affordable housing units on Third Avenue boosted the project’s priority. The units will have garages in the rear, which are only accessible through the alley.

Anderson estimates the renovation project will cost $150,000. Funding will come from the city’s transportation sales tax.

Jim Hendren also owns property that backs up to the alley. He said he is worried city engineers have not properly thought through a drainage plan.

“My real concern is will it flood,” Hendren said. “Maybe it’ll work, but I just want to come in and voice my concerns. I’m going to be the writing a letter to the city so that they understand, if they put this in and this drain doesn’t work that I will be filing an inverse condemnation suit.”

Hendren said his rental property flooded years ago. He worked with the city to install a drain behind the lot. Hendren is preparing to file a lawsuit, but says he would rather not sue.

“I hope it works because I don’t want to have to go through the process,” he said.

Anderson said the plan includes modifying the current drain to fit with the new pavement.

Kelley said the impact of the project will stretch beyond the two blocks of pavement.

“We have the Optimist Club up the street and Ridgeway school down the street. This is a place where lots of people come,” Kelley said. “I think to keep this area safe and improve it, to invest in the core of the city, I think that something that benefits everyone.”

The alley connects Grand Avenue to North Garth Avenue. Construction will get underway in summer 2019.