AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – A local business is speaking out about a proposed revitalization effort in Aiken.

“it’s just amazing that art will take you from having a bad day, you’re feeling a little bit despairing, and then you come in, and you’re like, I’m in Hawaii,” Stacy O’Sullivan told Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk laughing. Art and Soul is one of the small businesses in The Alley that could be displaced if Project Pascalis—the plan to renovate and revitalize downtown Aiken — becomes a reality. The business was created as a platform for local artists to display their work. “We don’t take salaries from this particular project,” she said. “That allows the artist to take all of the proceeds from their art sales and reinvest that into their creative business, keeps it very sustainable for the local artists,” she added.

O’Sullivan saw a rendering of the plans. “I don’t think that it takes into consideration the individuals that have invested quite a bit in the downtown infrastructure already on their own, just by being here and conducting business,” she said.

The view from Newberry St. shows The Alley with a glass bridge connector to the apartment building and parking garage. “How am I gonna maintain my business while you are building multiple stories on my, on my building,” she asked. “Especially when I know that there are maintenance issues that have not been attended to,” she said.

O’Sullivan says the building suffers from numerous issues — roof leaks and wood rot among them. “I think that they would like to see us go. We were invited to leave,” she recalled. “I believe that’s why there were construction problems and water problems from the beginning. I believe that that’s why the repairs have not been satisfactorily done to keep the water out of our building. I think they would prefer for us not to be here because they would prefer to make three times the rent and they’ve made that very clear to us in the beginning,” she said.

She also says there’s a lack of transparency in the project. “Why is there so much surprise now a year and a half later? Why is everyone so up in arms? I don’t understand that transparency is what you create so that you can eliminate that shock and awe later in now it’s happening. I don’t think anyone realized that it was going to impact the downtown alley businesses, but it absolutely will,” she said.

She added that the lack of communication from the city is disheartening. “I feel cut off. I feel unsupported, period. You know there has not been communication with us nor the business owners in my building,” O’Sullivan said.”

The project leaves an uncertain future for Art and Soul and other businesses downtown. “After a global pandemic and after an economic downturn and now to be really unsure about what the future holds for our business, I don’t know that we’ll be able to survive this last blow,” she said.

Meanwhile, city leaders will go into an executive session Monday, July 11, at 5 p.m. to discuss Project Pascalis. The council meeting will take place at 7 o’clock. It’s unclear if what will be discussed in the executive session will be presented to the public.