AIKEN, SC (WFXG) - A vital block in downtown Aiken is for sale. And that's a sale that the city itself is hoping to have some influence over.
"It's right at the heart of the downtown area," said John Klimm, of the Aiken city council. "It's a critical block downtown. And it's going to be sold."
The block at Richland and Newberry is for sale and, long story short, the city made a $5,001 deal in order to determine who buys it.
"We're not just sitting back on the sidelines waiting for a developer to buy up a whole city block to find out what they're going to do with it," Klimm said.
The deal acts as a 'time-out' for the sale, allowing Aiken until April to find a suitable buyer. Klimm says the city has an ideal image in mind for its transformation.
"We want businesses that are homegrown," he said. "We want small, individual businesses run by people that are from Aiken or from the surrounding area."
A short walk along the block shows that it could use some work, but when the decision has to be made there's only so much that can be controlled. It's up to the buyer and Philip Merry, another member of Aiken's city council, realizes that.
"We can say what we think it ought to be, but it's got to make sense to them," Merry said. "So, we're asking them, within the parameters that we're looking for, to bring us their proposal that will meet their needs, but also meet ours."
Proposals favoring the existing businesses will be given priority. People working in the block's businesses have generally mixed feelings.
"To maybe be able to have a new fresh look, said Patrick Carlisle, Owner of Newberry Hall. "It's exciting. It's something to look forward to."
"It's a great idea," said Joshua Nicholson, an employee at Playoffs Bar. "It's just the way it's been communicated to everybody has been bizarre."
Aiken plans to have prospective buyers lined up in January and is hopeful to decide on one by March. Klimm doesn't want the outlook of Aiken's downtown area to stray too far from the current course.
"Aiken has a really unique, wonderful, special, charming downtown," he said. "We want to keep it that way. But that doesn't happen without a lot of attention and that's basically what we're trying to do."
As plans begin to finalize, Aiken is asking the community to attend public hearings early next year to provide input on the direction they would like the city block to go. These meetings will likely fall between January and March.