AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — The new Aiken Municipal Building is close to being completed.
“It’s grand but subtle,” that’s how Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh described the new building to NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.
If those walls could talk, they would probably share the rich history shared between them. “This building was originally constructed and opened in 1930 as the Henderson Hotel,” he shared. “Then in the 1960s, it became a branch headquarters of Palmetto Federal Bank, which was subsequently acquired by Regions Bank Regions left this location 2018, 2019,” he added.
“It was used as part of an accommodation for construction workers at the Savannah River Site when I became aware of it,” Richard Johnson, Jr. shared.
Johnson lives in Aiken and he’s the Municipal Election Commission Chairman for the city. For him, the site of the old hotel has a special place in his memories.”One of the vehicles that I bought back then at that time was from one of the employees that were working at Savannah River Site,” he said. “He was with the construction team and his job had ended. He was moving back to his home and he had the car for sale and I bought the car,” he added.
Now the city is looking to turn something from the past into something more modern. Relics from the past enshrined into the new building from brickwork down to the plates out front. “The city contractor demolished the two-story addition that the bank put on in the 1960s and rebuilted it with a building with the exterior brick work. The brown strip delineates where the original construction is and the transition into the new construction,” Bedenbaugh shared. A crew of about 30 is putting in the work. “The exterior of the building, the facade that faces Chesterfield Street, is what was here in the thirtieshe. T inside and the roof is new and all of the up-to-date technology, so it’s very exciting,” he said. “I think our residents and citizens will be very proud of this building,” he added.
The first level of the three-story building will handle residents the most. The council chambers will be on level three. The city entered into an agreement with Southeastern to renovate to building for the city to purchase and that will be completed by the end of 2021. Staff will be moving in around February of next year. It will be able to hold up to 90 employees. “The purpose of the building is to be the city’s municipal building for at least the next 50 years so we want to have room to grow as missions and job functions change,” Bedenbaugh said. “It’s very flexible space, which I think our citizens will enjoy on a number of levels,” he added.
The cost is 13.5, $8 million. Money for the project is coming from various sources and there’s no additional cost to the taxpayer. “We’re, re-purposing an almost a hundred-year-old, somewhat iconic, building in Aiken. It’s got all the modern amenities and comforts on the inside,” he added.
Meanwhile, Johnson says that he’s excited about the move but he’s not sure about the convenience.”I don’t know if it’d be any more convenient. I still have to pay those bills,” he added.