The new William H. Spencer High School is dotting the landscape along Fort Benning Road but it’s also raising concerns on the busy street with vacant buildings and litter.
At a cost of $56 million , the new school is expected to help revitalize a low-income area with very little activity. A south Columbus resident, who attended Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s Dec. 14 forum at East Columbus Magnet Academy, wanted to know what the city plans to do about the visible problems with litter and vacant buildings near the 1000 Fort Benning Road high school.
With all the latest technology, the 200,000 square-foot building will have 60 classrooms when construction is expected to be completed in August. The new structure will replace the 39-year-old school on Victory Drive but it’s a contrast to crumbling structures in the area.
City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the city isn’t done with the area and more changes are on the way. A graduate of Spencer, Hugley agrees the money is a big investment in the community. “It’s going to be the best in Columbus, the best in Georgia,” he told a gathering of more than 95 residents.
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Since 2014, the city has been busy acquiring property to revitalize the area. “We are not done yet,” he said. “We are working to acquire more property.”
Just because the land is near the new school, Hugley noted the city will not pay more than fair market value for property where people aren’t taking care of it.
“We are going to clean up Benning Road,” the city manager said.
The city is already moving forward with plans for a 12-foot wide walking and biking trail along Fort Benning Road. A right-of-way coordinator is acquiring property for a roundabout at Fort Benning, Cusseta and Brennan roads. There also is a streetscapes project from Shelby Street to the intersection of Brennan Road.
District 3 Councilor Bruce Huff is hopeful the city’s efforts will make a difference. “He has told everybody that he’s trying to negotiate at fair market value and buy as many properties and clean it up,” Huff said Friday. “I think eventually it will. It’s just going to take a moment.”
More businesses along the corridor will improve the tax base and property values. Vacant buildings and closed shops aren’t good signs for any neighborhood.
Huff said the city will continue to work in the area. “With the investment being put over there, we are going to keep working at it to revitalize the area,” he said.
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