Blighted Columbia neighborhoods targeted for redevelopment

Renderings of potential redevelopment of homes in Columbia’s Booker Washington Heights neighborhood.
Renderings of potential redevelopment of homes in Columbia’s Booker Washington Heights neighborhood. Provided photo

Replacing rundown homes and vacant lots with modern houses and attracting businesses to create jobs are the recommendations for revitalizing a trio of Columbia communities.

The Booker Washington Heights and Melrose Heights/Lyon Street neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown are target areas for projects to overhaul blighted, crime-ridden corridors with new residences and businesses along Beltline Boulevard and Millwood Avenue.

And Farrow Road is targeted for commercial development starting with a shopping center anchored by a grocery store, which could be the catalyst for enticing a mixture of businesses from light industrial to mom-and-pop retailers.

The recommendations from private consulting firm DESA Inc. were presented to City Council members Tuesday, along with recommendations for funding the communities’ redevelopment, which include various tax options.

“My neighborhood has been asking and trying to improve the corridor on Farrow Road for over 20 years,” said Edna Harrison, president of the Burton Heights/Standish Acres neighborhood, which crosses Farrow Road in north Columbia. “We have meetings, we come, we discuss, and we do not receive. So we are not going to give up.”

Councilman Moe Baddourah, who represents the Melrose Heights and Lyon Street neighborhoods, said he’s eager for city leaders to finally take action on plans that are years in the making.

“I want to build my neighborhoods,” Baddourah said.

Some federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant program could go toward redeveloping the three target areas. City staff has recommended that council members commit to spending $500,000 of CDBG funds in 2017-18 to buy and demolish properties in the target areas, laying the groundwork for new development.

DESA has recommended that the city’s Community Development Department offer loans to the city’s development corporations to spur the communities’ redevelopment.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.

Other council actions Tuesday

▪ Adopted an updated commercial nondiscrimination and disadvantaged business policy, which says, in part, the city will not do business with firms that discriminate based on age, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.

▪ Gave $83,800 to One Columbia from the city’s general fund to make up for the hospitality tax funding the group is no longer receiving.

▪ Gave initial approval to updating the city’s animal services codes. Updates include:

-Raising to four from three the number of dogs that qualify a property as a kennel.

-Removing the pound redemption fee for pets that are properly licensed, microchipped and neutered or spayed if it is the animal’s first time being impounded and the pet is picked up within 48 hours.

-Allowing feral cats to roam free as long as they have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped and deemed healthy by a veterinarian.