AIKEN, S.C. (WFXG) - The Savannah River National Laboratory is one of 17 Department of Energy labs intended to address nuclear and environmental issues throughout the country. Now, the lab may be expanding from inside SRS and into downtown Aiken.

Mayor Rick Osbon has announced the city will consider a $20-million high-tech workforce development. On the heels of failed Project Pascalis, officials in Aiken hope some of the parcels on Newberry St. will be given new life after all.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Woltz says, as SRNL was planning for a new building, “It became clear that some very nice downtown property the city owns just might be available for a new and better idea. Sometimes a better plan comes along just when you least expect it.”

State representative Bill Taylor represents the area where SRS is located. He is excited about the prospect of uniting the SRNL with downtown Aiken.

“This facility, out in downtown Aiken, will revitalize, will make historic downtown Aiken so vibrant. It’s just an exciting proposition,” says Taylor.

According to a press release, the new workforce development building will provide the national lab with a pipeline of prospective employees in partnership with several universities, including USC-Aiken.

The proposed infrastructure will be funded by a settlement award given to SRNL and the city by the federal government in 2020 following a 6-year legal dispute over the removal of 9.5 metric tons of plutonium stored at SRS.

Some citizens who were not in favor of Project Pascalis and the extensive demolition and renovation of some of Aiken's historic buildings are pleased with the announcement, which garnered a standing ovation in Monday's State of the City address.

“This is going to be a very collaborative effort," says Taylor. "You’re going to see public hearings, a lot of public input, I think people when they get done seeing it, will be very pleased with the outcome and it will fit the character of this little town.”

A public hearing will be scheduled in two weeks, according to Woltz.

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