COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Take a drive down Monticello Road near I-20 in Columbia and you might notice empty plots of land.
In February, demolition of buildings is what you saw. It was part of an effort by nearby Columbia International University, on land that it purchased, to reduce crime and grow the economy in the area. Six months later, what is new and has it worked?
On Tuesday, we found out that one of the properties at Walton and Monticello will become a Richland County Sheriff’s Department substation. After renovation, plans are for the deputies to move in on October 15. With a substation in the area, university officials hope the foundation of safety will be laid out for future economic growth.
What will happen with the other six properties that CIU owns? Three of those plots of land will become a gas station and Dairy Queen, according to CIU President Mark Smith.
“The paperwork should be completed in 45 days and they’re saying 6-8 month build time,” he said. “I mean, you’re looking at 50-75 employees that will be hired by this little place could be as high as 100, not all full time but part-time.”
Smith said the agreement comes from the company Jones Petroleum. He added building has not happened yet because they were working on getting different approvals from the city and county.
What more will be done with the remaining three properties near Walton and Monticello? Smith said they are still working on that.
Kenyotta Nelson, a new resident to the area has noticed that more can be done when it comes to this local economy. She, like others, would like to see a grocery store come to the area.
Smith said they are open to a small grocery store coming to a property they own, but any details have yet to be finalized.
For Smith, one of the most important aspects of this investment is what he has already seen change when it comes to crime.
“What I’ve seen at Monticello Road with the community leaders, coming together, to say enough is enough, we’re going to make changes,” Smith said. “And it’s seen crime reduced by substantive margins, whether it’s 50 percent, or not it has been reduced. I personally drive by and don’t see police cars at the bottom of the hill now.”
University officials said that money from the leasing of the land they own goes back to the school, with hopes of growing their footprint and increasing safety in the area.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott released the following statement on the new substation and CIU’s investment:
“CIU has made a significant positive change in that area by buying business and bars that were a problem. We have already seen a huge change in that overall area with what they’ve done. Us having a substation there will further that positive change that CIU started."