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Demolition process begins at Allen Benedict Court in Columbia

Housing Authority prepares to raze apartment community where two men lost their lives
Credit: WLTX
Allen Benedict Court remains empty after residents were evacuated on January 18, 2019.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia's Housing Authority announced the beginning of the process of demolishing Allen Benedict Court apartments will begin this week.

The organization has chosen a demolition contractor, Complete Demolition Services, Inc., and workers will begin erecting temporary fencing around the property -- bounded by Harden, Read, Oak and Laurel streets -- on or about Monday, July 6.

Remediation work -- removing asbestos and lead from the property --  is scheduled to begin later in the week and typically takes a few weeks to complete.

Spokeswomen Cynthia Hardy said July 12 is the target date for actual demolition to begin with crews and heavy equipment on site.

“Our intent is to keep the public fully informed through the demolition, public input, and redevelopment phases of the project,” says Columbia Housing CEO Ivory Mathews. “Allen Benedict Court means so much to so many, and we realize there is tremendous interest in the project and the future of the property.”

The demolition process is expected to be completed in November.

On January 17, 2019, Calvin Witherspoon Jr and Derrick Roper were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in their separate apartments in Building J at the complex. Within hours, 411 residents were evacuated from the 80-year-old property after multiple gas leaks were discovered at the site.

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Allen Benedict Court apartments was opened in February 1940 to serve the needs of African-American families in the Columbia area -- a companion to the nearby Gonzales Gardens' all white apartment complex. Initial plans for the 16-acre site called for 244 dwelling units in 26 buildings. 182 units were leased before the official move-in date of November 15, 1940.