Aiken starts transformation of Crosland Park

AIKEN --- Cathie Ciani and Carmen Roa are proud members of the Crosland Neighborhood Association, and lately they've been looking forward to a transformation near their homes.

"I'm hoping that eventually we'll be able to get more and more people involved in the renovations and make this into the beautiful neighborhood it can be," said Ms. Ciani, who moved to Crosland Park 10 months ago from New Jersey to retire. "We're near a school. It would be a great place for young people to start their families, and it's a good place to retire."

The neighborhood, on Aiken's north side, is the site of a $1.5 million city plan to renovate 150 homes.

Construction hasn't started, but the city recently purchased about 25 homes. The goal is to renovate the homes, then sell them to those in need at prices that at least equal the city's cost of purchasing and improving the property.

The city has done some clearing at the entrance and plans to add plants for beautification, said Gary Yount, the president of the Crosland Neighborhood Association. The association will use a Palmetto Pride grant for the beautification.

The city has options to purchase 80 more properties in Crosland Park and is part of a consortium of area churches and nonprofit agencies.

Crosland Park was built in 1952 as housing for workers at Savannah River Site. In recent years, officials say, it has had problems with crime. Aiken Assistant City Manager Richard Pearce said the work in Crosland Park goes hand in hand with a bigger city plan to rejuvenate certain areas.

He said the idea of breathing new life into older areas started in the early 1990s.

Similar improvement projects include the rebuilding of the city's old railroad depot at Union Street and Park Avenue and renovation of the old Immanuel School on York Street as part of a planned Center for African-American History, Art & Culture.

"We really expect within the next couple of weeks to find out from the state whether we've been awarded grant money to use in Crosland Park," Mr. Pearce said.

The grant money would reduce the cost of a renovated home from an estimated $85,000 to $65,000, Mr. Pearce said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.