Aiken makes plans for major downtown development, to include hotel and conference center

Thursday, November 4th 2021, 4:38 PM EDT

Aiken's downtown could soon see a new hotel, conference center and a parking garage.

The Aiken Municipal Development Commission announced Thursday its plans to buy property in the downtown district. The seven parcels are surrounded by Laurens Street SW, Richland Avenue and Newberry Street. Aiken's city council has already approved issuing $9.6M in bonds to help purchase the properties and get them ready for major re-development. The Development Commission is already talking with private developers and investors. Chairman Keith Wood calls the investment a "generational opportunity."

“It has the opportunity to transform the whole Downtown of Aiken which is our charm," Wood says. "It’s our beauty.” He says the total cost of the project could end up being somewhere between $75-$100M, and there will be discussions with the developers about how much of that would be public and how much of that would be private. 

Planning is still in the early stages so they don't have an architectural firm yet, either. But Wood says AMDC is open to the public's feedback.

Aiken Chamber President and AMDC member David Jameson shared the following release:

. Aiken Municipal Development Commission to Acquire Key Properties

Redevelopment Plans underway to Transform Downtown Aiken

Aiken, SC.; November 4, 2021 – The Aiken Municipal Development Commission (AMDC), announced today its intent to acquire significant property in the heart of the City of Aiken downtown district. The seven parcels are bounded by Laurens St. SW, Richland Avenue, and Newberry Street.

A vote to move ahead with the Commission’s downtown redevelopment plan is scheduled for Tuesday, November 9, according to an agenda for the 2 pm meeting released today. “The Commission, which has been developing the plan for more than a year, is expected to approve the purchase,” said Keith Wood, Chairman of the AMDC.

The AMDC believes control is needed over this critical portion of downtown suffering from disuse and deterioration. Acquisition of this property is a gigantic first step and precedent to the redevelopment of a significant portion of downtown. The AMDC plans to spur revitalization of downtown Aiken with private investment in an area that has been ignored and even avoided for many years by private investors.  Redevelopment will address the health and safety concerns attendant to abandoned buildings and significantly add to the City’s tax rolls. The redevelopment of property acquired by the AMDC and the anticipated follow-on private sector investment should significantly enhance the downtown district.

The proposed redevelopment of this property (formerly named Project Pascalis) consists of the following components (1) hotel with full amenities, (2) multi-family housing units; (3) a conference center integrated into or adjacent to the hotel, and capacity for meetings with ability to host regional conferences; and (4) structured parking garage. The AMDC is in negotiations with several private developers and investors for plans for this redevelopment.

Recently, AMDC recommended that the City Council issue bonds totaling $9,600,000 to provide funds to defray the costs of acquiring and improving real estate in the downtown area of the City and site preparation and infrastructure in connection. City Council has approved the issuance of bonds for this amount and plans are to use these funds to acquire this property.

“The AMDC believes that through the acquisition of this important real estate, the City will catalyze the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Aiken. This is a generational opportunity and we feel the redevelopment of this property will transform our Downtown District into something that will continue to set us apart from other communities and will drive economic development for decades to come for our City. I believe this redevelopment when completed will be something of which all Aiken residents will be proud and lays the groundwork to transform the most significant block in the heart of our community. All of Aiken will benefit from this action,” said Chairman Keith Wood.

The City of Aiken’s Municipal Development Commission is responsible for advising Aiken City Council of exiting blighted and/or conservation areas in whole or in part within the city limits of Aiken. The Commission also makes recommendations to the City Council on the redevelopment of the blighted and/or conservation areas in the interest of the public health, safety, morals, or welfare of the City of Aiken residents.

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