CHARLETSON, W.Va. - Jillian Haas, 11, and her sister, Lindsey, 9, can't wait for the new East End Park to open in about three months.
"I'll do cartwheels all over the place," a rambunctious Lindsey Haas said with a smile and a laugh.
The sisters attended Monday's groundbreaking ceremony with their father, Stephen Haas, 45. The Haas family lives right across from the site of the new park near the corner of Dixie and Nancy streets.
"I think it's great," Jillian said. "I'll have somewhere to go without my dad having to drive me somewhere."
City officials and representatives of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority were on hand Monday for the ceremony.
The park has been in the works since 2005, said Jim Edwards, the authority's executive director.
The first phase, which will cost about $516,000, should be completed in three months, Edwards said. It will include a decorative entranceway, a pavilion-style shade structure and spots for public art.
Fencing will be placed around the park. Officials with the authority, which spearheaded the project, also hope to include a walkway around the park in the first phase, Edwards said.
However, no funding has been allocated toward that part of the project as yet.
Stephen Haas has lived on Dixie Street across from the park since 2005, he said. He is very pleased to see construction begin because it will give his two daughters a place to play.
He said the project helped clean up what he called a "tough neighborhood."
Four houses on Dixie Street across from Haas' home were demolished to make room for the park. Those structures were the site of numerous drug deals, fights and even some shootings, he said.
He was happy to see them go.
"My truck was hit with a bullet one day when it was parked outside my house," Haas said. "There was just a lot of craziness that happened here."
Haas estimated that foot traffic on the street had been reduced by about 75 percent since the houses were demolished.
"This park is definitely going to make the neighborhood much safer," he said.
Councilman Marc Weintraub, an East End Democrat, said one of the demolished houses had a "rap list as long as my arm."