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$500K grant to help Fort Mill improve Paradise

A $500,000 federal grant will help Fort Mill build sidewalks, improve water service and knock down dilapidated houses in the Paradise community – improvements residents say are badly needed in the historically black neighborhood.

The town and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments secured the community development block grant this week. The money includes commitments of $68,076 from the town and $75,000 from York County.

The federal money will pay for new sidewalks along Steele Street, water line improvements on Steele and Joe Louis streets, two new neighborhood entrance signs and the demolition of four vacant, dilapidated houses.

“We hope the new improvements and community signs foster an incentive in rebuilding the self-esteem of this historic community,” said Rudy Sanders, who grew up in Paradise and worked on the grant committee.

Town Manager Dennis Pieper said the projects centered on winning the grant.

“Without these grant funds,” he said, “we would not be able to provide the assistance needed for the residents in this neighborhood.”

Now the town needs to hire engineers, designers and contractors for the work.

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,” he said, “but we’re waiting to see what they’ll end up doing and when they’ll start working on it.”

Paradise residents say their community needs plenty of help from the town, including doing something about through traffic. As growth continues on nearby Springfield Parkway, vehicles often use the neighborhood as a cut-through to town.

That traffic often moves at well above the posted speed limit, residents say, despite the presence of a park, school bus stops and other places where children congregate.

Greene would like to see speed bumps installed. Other residents want signs warning that children are at play, old roads resurfaced or stepped-up police presence to help slow traffic.

Many Paradise residents have lived there for decades and are proud of their neighborhood, but they say it could use a little help. Some feel they are “the last people on the list” when it comes to community improvements, but they are encouraged by news of the grant.

Josephine White, who has lived in Paradise for nearly 35 years, hopes the sidewalks and other efforts toward connectivity and pedestrian safety will improve the community. She’s hopeful water line improvements near her home might help.

Residents say churches and neighbors help one another, but they’re grateful for what the town or outside agencies might offer.

The town, the Council of Governments and the grant committee worked for about a year to secure the competitive grant.