Robert Cooks, Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp.'s executive director, ought to take the complaints as a good sign.
After all, if people weren't complaining about some of ANIC's newly acquired property getting a bit overgrown and dotted with beer bottles, it would mean they didn't care.
But they do care, because Cooks, his agency and other non-profit groups have given people living in Laney-Walker a reason to care.
The turnaround in the inner city is practically miraculous thanks to several groups. Between ANIC, Laney-Walker Development Group, the 30901 Development Corp. and Antioch Ministries, more than 50 new homes have been built or are under construction in neighborhoods that had been in decline for generations. This doesn't include the renovations on salvageable homes.
Let's look at ANIC's record:
ANIC bought and tore down its first dilapidated building in December, 2000. In the last 15 months, it has bought 136 parcels, torn down 50 structures, built 20 new homes, is preparing to build a 29-unit townhouse and several other new single homes, has sold 13 homes and has three pending sales.
The neighborhood improvement has attracted a private builder, the first in decades to invest in home building in Augusta's inner city. Five homes are now being built with private money.
ANIC also marshaled a force of more than 700 volunteers one year ago to clean up Laney-Walker neighborhoods. They filled 22 20-yard collection bins full of garbage from vacant lots and abandoned properties.
Even with the cleanup, vacant lots attract litterers and dumpers. By next year, many ANIC lots will be new homes, but in the meantime, it may be time for ANIC to have another community-wide cleanup. It's time for people from the Augusta area to revisit the neighborhood and see what a difference a year has made.
The Laney-Walker turnaround is the result of tremendous commitment from many sectors of the community - bankers, the city, community groups, the Augusta legislative delegation (especially Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta). It's a success story in the making.
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