AIKEN, S.C., (WJBF)– Tuesday there was a contentious public input session on Project Pascalis, a plan to revitalize some of historic downtown Aiken.
Project Pascalis includes plans to demolish historic Hotel Aiken and replace it with a new one. Some residents at Tuesday’s public input session say they’re not ready to see the history go.
“My biggest concerns are they’re going to take the charm away from Aiken. Once you destroy historic buildings, you can never get it back,” Sally Stroker said.
The plan includes several other changes to Newberry Street.
“They’re trying to fit too much in a space. 117 apartments, a big parking garage. They’re going to make a conference center. Aiken doesn’t need a conference center,” Stroker said.
“When I saw they were building an apartment complex and a parking garage in a small block in a historic district, that was alarming,” resident Drew Johnson said.
Aiken Economic Development Authority Director, Tim O’Briant, says they’re working hard to hear residents out and incorporate their feedback.
“We’ve had 25 public meetings over the last 24 months trying to find the look and the feel and the shape of this, what components need to be involved. We’ve had many, many studies regarding parking, the hotel and the feasibility of that, and our conference facilities, and we’re getting close,” O’Briant said.
O’Briant says they’ve incorporated public feedback by reducing the proposed hotel height from five to four stories, and not taking away a lane on Newberry Street.
But some residents say the actual plans aren’t their biggest worry. Members of the group “Do It Right” showed up to voice their concerns about the project.
“Everything about this is really dirty. The state attorney needs to get involved,” Johnson said.
“We’ve got a group of very concerned citizens who are ready to oppose this and we’ll do everything we can including bringing legal action,” resident Luis Rinaldini said. “We have the funding to do it and we intend to stop it. We want a good project, we don’t want to stop the project, we want to stop illegal activity.”
Project Pascalis is not set in stone. O’Briant says nothing can begin until at least 2023, and construction would take around three years.