A big night in Aiken County as the school board had to decide whether to approve or reject a financial plan to bring a riverfront development to North Augusta.
Project Jackson is expected to cost $150 million and includes a sports entertainment complex for the GreenJackets. The site would also include townhomes, a new hotel and a downtown district with shops and restaurants near Hammond's Ferry.
The development was officially announced on January 19th of this year but financial roadblocks have stalled the plan. A tax increment financing plan, or TIF, was rejected in March by the Aiken County Council and the school board postponed its request for approval during that time as well.
During Tuesday night's school board meeting, just 2 board members voted "no" to the project, while 7 members voted "yes." Those votes are providing a big boost to a project that will change the riverfront in North Augusta.
The Savannah riverfront in North Augusta is one step closer to becoming a $150 million dollar public and private project that the Augusta GreenJackets will call home.
"Obviously there is a great sense of relief. This is something that we have been working on for a very long time. Obviously there have been some stops along the way, but we have always been passionate about this project. We have been waiting all summer for this day," Augusta GreenJackets President Jeff Eiseman says.
Tuesday night, the Aiken County School Board approved the financing plan for Project Jackson, but not without opposition. Several Aiken County citizens spoke out against the project. Many stating that if the project was such a good investment, the developer should put 100% of the money into it instead of asking for taxpayer money. Aiken Resident Mike Stake says this vote creates a problem for the school board because it could open the door for more TIFs in the area.
"You know what, there are several ideas that I have. We can get a couple of private investors together and come up with a portion of the money. Perhaps the board would like to vote for a TIF for my projects so that we can push those into the Aiken community also," Stake says.
But the city of North Augusta says the project will have a huge economic impact in the city. City officials are calling the project the gateway to Aiken County. But even though the financing plan passed, that doesn't mean construction will start any time soon.
"This is sort of like the hurdles in the olympics. You've got to jump a bunch of hurdles to get to the finish line and this is the first hurdle that we have successfully negotiated," North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones says.
The next hurdle is going to be the Aiken County Council, which is also going to have to approve the TIF plan before Project Jackson can happen.
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