Aiken using connectivity to draw interest in downtown

Aiken using connectivity to draw interest in downtown

AIKEN, SC (WFXG) - As the City of Aiken looks to attract a younger crowd, they are releasing designs for a downtown makeover. City officials held a workshop reviewing design possibilities. Simple improvements like adding walkways to roads are hoping to attract younger professionals to Aiken's historic district.

"We discovered and saw recently some plans that were done by the city fathers, in the 1800's and what they wanted the parkways to be like, they were
schematics of trails and walkways, where the parkways were interactive and not just something that people looked at," said John McMichael, the city's business vitality manager.

Downtown Aiken has plenty of walking spaces like the recently re-done Alley, but what it lacks is connectivity and city officials believe that is the
key to downtown growth.

"Trying to revitalize the parkways, bringing them back to the historic significance they originally had, which was a gathering place, a place where
people were able to stroll through there with their families," said McMichael.

The city says these improvements will be little to no expense on the taxpayer, and with increased connectivity will come interest from the private
sector. "There are already a lot of corporate sponsors already looking to step up and help with the parkways, so I think it will be a lot of private money
going towards that," said Mayor Rick Osbon. "When we talk about housing in our area, it's a private sector, not the public, our role is to make it feasible through connectivity then get out of the way and let the market do what it does."

In a downtown that hasn't had a lot of change over the years, the city is trying to find a balance between being itself while also growing.

"We don't want to do anything to Aiken that will make us not Aiken, our downtown is our charm, it's our postcard and first impression, so we won't do
anything that changes that, but there are certain things millennial and certain professionals are looking for that's connectivity," said Osbon.

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