Aiken begins accepting development proposals for key downtown block

Aiken begins accepting development proposals for key downtown block

AIKEN, SC (WFXG) - Aiken announced that its plans for the Richland and Newberry block goes beyond a simple paintjob. City officials met at Newberry Hall to formally start accepting development proposals.

"We're talking about multiple properties and we're talking about a major development proposal that could be 30 to 40 million dollars," said John Klimm, Aiken's City Manager.

Aiken wants that block to become multiple stories--possibly including housing and a parking garage.
The city has about $1.5 million dollars banked for a potential parking structure by way of a hospitality tax.

"The funding source is already there," Klimm said. "The developer would build the parking garage. The city would ultimately either lease it or buy it. It would be a city facility."

If that sounds like it might end up being too much of an eyesore, citizens do have some push.

"Our involvement actually allows the citizens of Aiken to participate in this process," he said. "We'll have workshops and hearings. People can come and say, 'I like that proposal; I don't like that proposal.'"

Business vitality manager John C. McMichael, Jr., maintains the changes will be for the better.

"We want to continue to maintain the uniqueness of our city, but yet make it available for changes in very positive ways that continue to still keep the flavor of Aiken the same as it has always been," he said.

The February 1 deadline is further away than it seems. It's common for developers to wait until the last minute to submit a proposal.

"I'm sure they're going to take time to put them together," Klimm said. "Probably expect most of them to come in the last week, maybe even the last day."

As far as what's going to become of existing businesses on the block, the city requires any developer to meet with every business owner to come to terms with how they're going to deal with any construction effort.

A pre-proposal conference will be held Wednesday, January 11, to further iron out the city's vision for the block and the public is welcome to attend.

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