About the Project – East Central Columbia Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
Choice Neighborhoods Lead Grantee: Housing Authority of the City of Columbia Target Public Housing Projects: Allen Benedict Court and Gonzales Gardens Target Neighborhoods: East Central Columbia Choice Neighborhoods Grant Amount: $250,000
Key Partners: City of Columbia Community Development Department, Columbia Housing Development Corporation, Benedict College and Allen University, Providence Hospital, Palmetto Health, Richland One Schools, Richland County First Steps, Midlands Technical College, University of South Carolina, Midlands Workforce Development Board, and Eau Claire Promise Zone, and Urban Collage (Planning Coordinator)
Project Summary: The East Central neighborhood, which contains the severely distressed Allen Benedict Court and Gonzales Gardens public housing developments, suffers from a variety of problems including a 57% poverty rate and a vacancy rate of 14%. East Central is one of the most historic African-American areas in Columbia, with origins in the 1870s. At one time, it was Columbia’s most prominent African-American community and was anchored by institutions such as Allen University and Benedict College. However, crime and economic challenges during the 1960s and 1970s left it struggling, with advancing blight only made worse by the deterioration of its public housing.
The Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant will enable CHA, the community and its partners to develop a comprehensive Neighborhood Transformation Plan. By doing so, the CHA-led team will be able to capture and accelerate recent momentum that has occurred through nearby revitalization efforts, leverage the work that CHA has initiated with residents and the investments made in revitalization, and expand it into a broader transformation of the entire neighborhood to ensure that remaining pockets of blight are eliminated and East Central is set on a path to long-term sustainability. The team plans to build upon recent investments made at Allen University, Providence Hospital, and local schools as well as key neighborhood assets including the Drew Wellness Center, the Celia Saxon Health Center, the Tillis Family Life Center, Drew Park, Providence Hospital, recreation fields around BenedictTigers Stadium, area churches, and a walkable street grid in close proximity to downtown Columbia.