The town is getting $500,000 to spend on infrastructure and aesthetic improvements in the Paradise community through a project residents say is badly needed.
A community block grant was awarded in November after the town and Catawba Regional Council of Governments partnered to apply for it. Money comes through the state Department of Commerce, and includes commitments of $68,076 from the town and $75,000 from county C-Funds. Fort Mill had to compete with other municipalities for the money.
Improvements the grant will finance include new sidewalks along Steele Street, water line improvements on Steele and Joe Louis streets, two new neighborhood signs and demolition of four vacant, dilapidated properties.
“We hope the new improvements and community signs foster and incentive in rebuilding the self-esteem of this historic community,” said Rudy Sanders, who grew up in Paradise and worked on the grant committee.
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Dennis Pieper, town manager, said the planned projects centered on the grant application.
“Without these grant funds, we would not be able to provide the assistance needed for the residents in this neighborhood,” he said.
Now the town needs to select engineers and designers for the work, then solicit construction bids. Douglas Greene, a Paradise resident who participated in community meetings during the grant process, eagerly awaits those coming moves.
“It’s good if they’re going to do it, but we’re waiting to see what they’ll end up doing and when they’ll start working on it,” he said.
Greene and other Paradise residents say needs are many in the historically African-American community. A common one involves through traffic. As growth continues on nearby Springfield Parkway, vehicles often pass through Paradise between there and town. Often, residents say, drivers go at well beyond the posted speed limit despite a park, school bus stops and other places where children congregate.
Greene would like to see speed bumps installed. Other residents want signs showing children at play, old roads resurfaced or police with a radar gun to help slow traffic. Many residents have lived in Paradise for decades and are proud of their neighborhood, but say it could use a little help. Some residents feel they are “the last people on their list” when it comes to community improvements, and were encouraged by news of the grant.
Josephine White, a resident almost 35 years, hopes the sidewalks and other efforts toward connectivity and pedestrian safety will be positives for Paradise. She’s hopeful the water line improvements near her home might help, but said the most help would be an improved rate.
“The water bill is too high here,” White said.
Residents say churches and neighbors help one another, but they’re grateful for what the town or outside agencies might offer.
The town, COG and grant committee have been working for about a year to secure the grant.