Originally created 10/11/05

Funding detailed for revitalization

AIKEN - The city council has $1.75 million to spend on revitalization efforts on Aiken's north side during the next seven years. Now, city officials just need to decide how to spend it.

An expenditure of $610,000 for construction financing tops the list, which council members discussed at their work session Monday. City Manager Roger LeDuc recommended that $450,000 be used to build five new homes in the Toole Hill neighborhood.

"We feel we need to have at least five homes that are available for people to buy," he said.

Otherwise, he said, potential home-buyers could look elsewhere.

The city has three houses under construction in Toole Hill, Mr. LeDuc said. Those houses, and two more that have not been started, have been sold, he added.

Voters approved the allocation of funds in November's 1-cent capital projects sales tax referendum.

Efforts to revitalize the city's north side neighborhoods under a 10-year plan began in 2003.

"The vision that God had really given to me on this is that we would have 500 homes in this area," Mr. LeDuc said.

The city's goal is to build or renovate 500 homes on the north side within 10 years. More than $60 million in construction is expected to generate more than $1.7 million in new taxes during a 10-year period, according to a city memorandum.

It takes a minimum of four months to complete each house, and the city has sold an average of two homes a month in the past year, Mr. LeDuc said. At this rate, he said, the sale of 42 homes on 42 vacant lots in Toole Hill could be complete by the end of next year.

The revitalization project got under way with the completion of the infrastructure at Asheton Oaks, where 23 new houses were built on the former Camellia Trailer Park site.

"Every one of those homes is sold," Mr. LeDuc said.

Other proposed funding for the sales tax revenue includes $310,000 for a grant subsidy to enhance properties with landscaping, fencing and driveways and $350,000 for loan financing.

"There were too many people that wanted to buy those houses who could not get a loan," Mr. LeDuc said.

The proposed spending plan also includes a $250,000 loan to the Aiken Corp., a nonprofit organization that pursues economic development projects for the city. Of that, $160,000 would be allocated for new construction, Mr. LeDuc said, and the rest would be used for rehabilitation loans.

The proposal also recommends spending $150,000 for infrastructure improvements and $80,000 for assistance with closing costs.

The city council has approved plans for more than 60 new homes on the north side by private developers in the past 18 months. In addition, the memorandum said, dozens of homes in the area have been renovated.

The city also has purchased property in Edgewood, the next neighborhood to be revitalized.

"The biggest problem we're facing is people are realizing things are getting better, and they're not willing to sell," said Mr. LeDuc.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

Aiken's spending plan

$80,000: Closing assistance

$310,000: Grant subsidy

$610,000: Construction financing

$350,000: Loan financing

$250,000: Loan to Aiken Corp.

$150,000: Infrastructure improvements

$1.75 million: Total 1-cent sales tax funding for north side revitalization


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