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Published on February 12th, 2019 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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CIU Completes Purchase of Blighted Properties

Photo by Calvin Reese, Millennium Magazine

Partnership with neighborhoods to spur economic development

A partnership between Columbia International University and neighborhood leaders in north Columbia has reached a milestone that will transform blighted, crime-attracting properties on Monticello Road into commercially viable properties that will enhance the area’s appearance, reduce crime and attract significant economic activity.

CIU recently completed the last purchase of seven properties on Monticello Road from the I-20 exit along the gateway leading to the campus. Abandoned buildings have been demolished and cleanup of the sites has begun. The most recent purchase is a former club that was torn down.

CIU President Dr. Mark Smith addresses news conference.

Dr. Mark A. Smith, CIU President, is already talking with businesses that have expressed interest in the properties.

“The business people I’m talking with see vast potential for our community,” Smith said. “Right now our neighbors and students have to drive 20 minutes to get a meal and buy necessities. Companies see a workforce ready to work and consumers ready to buy.”

The idea for revitalization began about a year ago when Andre T. Melvin, pastor of Temple Zion Baptist Church, CIU professor Andre Rogers and community residents began meetings to discuss concerns about vacant buildings, trash, and public safety issues along Monticello Road.

Neighborhoods represented in the meetings included Bookert Heights, Denny Terrace, Forest Heights and Sarah Matthews/Wages Road.

“We identified the problems that were holding us back such as blight and public safety, but we also need economic development, stronger educational support, and communities working together,” Melvin said. “Dr. Smith and CIU came forward with a plan to buy and redevelop the land.  That was an answer to much prayer.”

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has been discussing the location of additional resources to the area and has indicated that a major reduction in crime should occur with the cleanup of these properties. 

“We could not be more excited to see these properties being bought and reclaimed for the good of the community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “For years, a club on one of the sites has been a source of complaints and crime. Knocking it down will breathe new life into the area and the community.”

Smith and other partnership representatives are meeting with local government officials to direct resources to Monticello Road and are seeking support for a variety of grants. Richland County Councilman Paul Livingston is working hard to assist this area.

Two of their priorities are additional lighting along the Monticello Road corridor and additional law enforcement presence.

CIU is also poised to meet business and IT needs with the new William H. Jones Global Business & IT Center scheduled for completion this fall. One of the purposes of the Center is to provide a corporate training room for Columbia area business professionals to act as a catalyst for business development, especially along the Monticello Road corridor. It will also provide an opportunity for CIU students to advance their “revitalizing” skills in business in the United States or in international missions work.

 The building alone will add a beautiful corporate touch to Monticello Road.

“We have a strong core value at CIU that we are to give back to our local community,” Smith said. “As we take Christ to the nations, we must first start here at home. As president I commit to invest locally and be a part of our community.” 

Video of demolition of the former club is available at https://bit.ly/2WVSPLV.

Columbia International University ranks #1 among colleges and universities in South Carolina by BestColleges.com. Excitement is growing on campus with the new $20 million William H. Jones Global Business & IT Center and CIU’s first baseball program. Request information on enrollment at CIU and Columbia Biblical Seminary or call (800) 777-2227, ext. 5024.           


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