AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — A recently filed lawsuit could halt a controversial downtown Aiken revitalization effort. Several key players in Aiken government, including the mayor, economic director, and Aiken Municipal Development Commission, are named.
In the nearly 100-page document, six residents and four non-profits are making their case to stop Project Pascalis. “The lawsuit makes many, many allegations of fact involving violations of the law,” Don Moniak told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk. “But the central issue is that this entire project is a violation of the public trust,” he added.
Moniak has been following the project closely since 2021. While he’s not a part of the lawsuit, he says there are many unanswered questions about the effort, including the request for proposals for the new project and demolishing three buildings on Laurens St SW around the corner from Hotel Aiken. “The City of Aiken has never shown pictures of existing businesses. They only show pictures of the hotel,” he said. “So the misperception that is created is that the entire area is blighted and nothing can be further from the truth,” he added.
The lawsuit also alleges a lack of transparency in the project – saying there wasn’t enough public access to the meeting with city leaders. “Most of the public meetings, that the city claims that has occurred quite a few of ’em occurred before this project even had a name level of public participation that’s being presented is totally inflated,” Moniak shared.
The project calls for the demolition of several buildings to make way for a new hotel, apartment complex, parking garage, and greenspace. A conference center will be at the city’s former municipal building. “The city of Aiken had the opportunity more than a year ago to come forward and present what the alternatives were and chose to keep its secret and that was wrong,” he said.
Now many are waiting to see what will happen with the new project. Meanwhile, the City of Aiken declined to comment on the case. “This gives the city an opportunity to step back and reset the whole process and take an open, honest approach to this whole redevelopment idea and, and open it up to alternatives that have never been considered before,” Moniak said.