Aiken is voted as “The South’s Best Small Town.” They are trying to keep that reputation by growing and improving parts of its downtown area.
In Monday’s Aiken City Council meeting, the council members approved the first reading of the ordinance to re-zone 100 Parcels.
The ordinance includes properties on Park Avenue, Williamsburg Street, Barnwell Avenue, and Union Street.
The city’s planning director says the city wants to expand that area of the downtown business district.
“It promotes businesses that you see downtown; small retail, restaurants, and offices,” said Ryan Bland.
There are 163 lots in the proposed zoning ordinance; 43 of those are vacant. Bland says more people want to live downtown. Passing the law will make that a reality.
“They all say the same thing, we want more residences downtown,” said Bland. “Currently, the zoning disallows that.”
The executive director for Aiken Downtown Development Association told NewsChannel 6 reporter, Devin Johnson, even though Aiken is growing, they’re sticking with the hometown feel.
“Aiken is so much more than a small town,” said Haley Knight. “But we don’t have that big town feel either which makes us so special.”
Knight says they are looking at businesses to put in that area to attract more people to move there.
“We will be able to keep it the way it is and rebuild from that,” explained Knight. “Rather than setting it back off the road and meeting those requirements of the general business district.”
The new zoning ordinance will make those abandon buildings more conforming and give people the flexibility on how they can develop the lot.
“If people want to rebuild homes in that area, but at the same time to be able to facilitate the same type of commercial development that has been there historically too,” explained Bland. “Most of if not all the current businesses in that area will be permitted currently and under the new zoning.”
The proposed re-zoning ordinance does not include the Salvation Army that’s on Park Avenue.
The final reading for the ordinance to take effect will be in the next city council public hearing on May 13th at 7 pm.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps