COLUMBIA, S.C. (courtesy ciu.edu) — Lawrie Sikkema has lived just down the road from Columbia International University for over 27 years. As she stood in the new Richland County Sheriff’s Department substation on Monticello Road, her first words were, “Wow, what a change!”
Sikkema is the vice president of the Denny Terrace Neighborhood Association, just one of several neighborhood associations whose members gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the substation paid for and renovated by Columbia International University as part of its Monticello Road revitalization plans.
“We’re all grateful for Columbia International University for purchasing this building — if you could have seen it before you’d never believe the change,” Sikkema said. “This new substation provides the needed security and protection that the Denny Terrace community and the Monticello Road corridor have dreamed of for years, and now has become reality.”
CIU purchased seven properties transforming the formerly blighted area into a commercially-viable district. The substation now resides on one of those properties.
During a brief ceremony at the grand opening, CIU President Dr. Mark Smith said CIU has invested over $1 million to buy the properties.
“I’ve had a belief for a long time that one of the main purposes of universities is to invest back into communities, and that’s what we’re doing right here,” Smith said.
He also noted that CIU athletes have been tutoring students at the local elementary school and that economic development won’t be far behind.
“I am working every day on business opportunities that will be coming forth,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott noted that a variety of criminal activity has already greatly decreased along Monticello Road because of CIU’s efforts.
“We cannot thank CIU enough for their commitment to this community and what they’ve done,” Lott said.
As for the officers working out of the substation, Deputy Jason Cuzzupe called the partnership between the Sheriff’s Department and CIU “amazing.”
“We’ve already hosted community meetings in here. Everybody from the community loves it,” Cuzzupe said. “Having a great space that’s new and fresh, it really feels like a welcoming environment and that’s what we really love.”