COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia's Gonzales Gardens is going away.
After remarks from city leaders and housing officials Wednesday morning, a demolition crew using an excavator began tearing down one of the 30 apartment buildings in one of the nation's oldest public housing complexes.
The complex dates back to 1940, and in the last couple of years, the Columbia Housing Authority has relocated 280 families or about 600 individuals.
Spokeswoman Nancy Stoudenmire says as required by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, each family was given a choice of three new locations to live.
They could also accept vouchers to help them move to any other place in South Carolina or even outside the state. Stoudenmire says all but three families chose to remain in Richland County.
Many still have warm memories of growing up in Gonzales Gardens, despite shortcomings including no central air conditioning, no showers and no way to hook up a clothes dryer inside the units.
Watching workers tear apart Building A-B, former resident Arlene Mitchell called the scene "surreal." Mitchell lived in the complex for 20 years before moving away in the mid-1990's.
"It wasn't so bad at all," she said. "I learned how to ride my bike out here. I learned how to cook from my mom out here. I have a lot of good memories."
The redevelopment plan has an estimated cost of $60 million. Many still have fond memories of growing up in Gonzales Gardens.