AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Five years after Southeastern Development Associates purchased the Aiken Mall, city leaders say change is around the corner, and Aiken residents say it’s about time.
“I’m 29 now, I’d say it was time when I was like 22, 23,” said shopper, Javier Frazier.
“Mostly I have to go to Augusta to do major shopping,” Aiken resident, Lavern Diggs said.
Diggs says she frequents the Aiken Mall about once a week. At a time, she moved away from Aiken for a few years.
“And then when I came back, I was shocked. Because this was it,” Diggs said.
What used to be a packed house now only has one store left standing. Belk is the only operating store, after Books-A-Million recently closed.
“We hated to see it leave, but we have to go to Augusta for everything and we don’t know why it seems that nothing will stay here too long,” shopper David WIlling said.
Now less people and more trash, broken windows and graffiti. Aiken Councilman Ed Woltz says it’s time to make progress.
“It’s becoming an economic blight on that part of town and something needs to be done with it,” Councilman Woltz said.
And the Aiken City Manager, Stuart Bedenbaugh, says changes are on the horizon.
He says part of the mall will be demolished to make way for residential apartments, and those building plans are expected to be turned in this week.
Bedenbaugh says interior demolition is underway, and revitalization will move forward steadily once they receive building plans.
And good news for shoppers… new stores will make their way into the Aiken Mall. Shoppers told NewsChannel 6 what they’re hoping to see.
“Some more urban wear,” Shamol Thomas said. “Stores that’s more like in a city like Atlanta, big cities like that.”
“Variety stores, Penny’s, Dillard’s. Stores like that,” Diggs said.
Southeastern Development says they expect progress on the project this month.