The Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. is making steady progress in its target area in the Laney-Walker neighborhood. This "can-do" agency has purchased more than 40 parcels, is in the process of buying another 65 or so, and has started construction on a house, the first of many to be built this year by ANIC.
Anyone who has driven the neighborhoods of the Laney-Walker district knows the definition of the word "neglect." As middle-class black families left the neighborhood for better homes decades ago, houses became vacant and boarded up, and poor, mainly black families were left behind.
Some houses have been taken over by squatters and drug-addicts, while others are neatly maintained, as homeowners valiantly make a stand and stay, in spite of the blight around them. Poverty is widespread, and on some streets Third World conditions persist with many occupied homes having no electricity - this, within a mile of city hall.
The decline of what was once a thriving neighborhood didn't happen overnight, nor will there be a miraculous turnaround. But ANIC is obviously going in the right direction by tearing down dilapidated houses and building new ones that come with attractive financing plans for families of modest means.
Among the several programs that ANIC is launching is a neighborhood cleanup planned for the middle of March - just before the Masters. ANIC is looking for 1,000 volunteers from faith-based organizations, businesses and schools, to don work gloves and clean up the junk and litter that has taken over vacant lots and alleys.
Getting businesses and churches involved is certainly the right approach and those interested in participating in the cleanup are encouraged to contact ANIC.
After all, the entire Augusta community is a major stakeholder in the Laney-Walker neighborhood. While a number of community groups have pitched in to hold the line these many years and prevent the decline from worsening, all of Augusta now has the challenge and the opportunity to clean up the streets and rebuild the inner city, or will have to continue explaining to visitors why our city has let so much urban area whither into decay.
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