Plans on the way to help spur significant growth in Aiken

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — The Aiken Municipal Development Commission plans to acquire property in the heart of Aiken’s downtown district. The seven parcels are in the Laurens St. SW, Richland Avenue, and Newberry Street areas. “It’s a great day for business in Aiken, South Carolina,” Aiken County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO J. David Jameson told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk about the new project.

“We really have the opportunity to transform our downtown in a way that our public has been asking for a long time,” Chairman of the AMDC Keith Wood added. City leaders say thousands of hours were involved in jumpstarting the effort generated by the Aiken Municipal Development Commission. “We’ve been working on this for well over a year,” Wood shared.

The land is in an area that some say has been ignored or avoided by private investors. Points include parcels on Laurens Street, Richland Avenue, and Newberry Street.

The proposed redevelopment of the properties (formerly named Project Pascalis) consists of the following components:

  • hotel with full amenities
  • multi-family housing units
  • a conference center integrated into or adjacent to the hotel, and capacity for meetings with the ability to host regional conferences
  • structured parking garage

“For them to come in with this recommendation and this opportunity really feel fortunate in our city to have the intellectual capital and the wisdom that this group brings to the project and look forward to a lot of successes,” Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said.

At a recent presentation, stakeholders learned the return on the investment could be a very large one. Using a document projected to stakeholders and the public, a presenter shared, “looking at where [the city is] currently on the left and $116 million of total value for your downtown. You’re going to bump it up to about $163 million with this project, which is a 41% change,” he revealed. “We expect to see that revenue for local government and impact on the economy. It’s just extraordinary,” Economic Development Director Tim O’Briant said.

The Aiken Municipal Development Commission is in negotiations with several private developers and investors for plans for this redevelopment.

Recently, AMDC recommended that the City Council issue bonds totaling $9.6 million to provide funds to offset the costs of acquiring and improving real estate in the downtown area of the City and site preparation and infrastructure. City Council recently approved the issuance of bonds for that amount, and plans are to use the funds to acquire the properties. “This is not a simple deal and it starts with assembling the land and moves forward. That’s what we’ve been able to do,” Jameson shared.

Information on the plans will be available on a new website expected to launch Tuesday, November 9 — AikenMDC.org. A vote to move ahead with the redevelopment plan is also scheduled for Tuesday. That meeting is at 2 p.m.

It’s expected to pass.

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