AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)– Business at the Aiken Mall has been withering for some time, but not for much longer. Southeasten Development Associates purchased the mall almost five years ago, and revitalization plans are officially underway.
Interior demolition has been ongoing for a few months, but as of this week, exterior demolition is in progress.
“It’s very exciting because it is a tens of millions of dollars project. In excess of $30 million,” Aiken City Planner, Stuart Bedenbaugh said.
During phase one of the project, one end of the mall is being demolished and replaced with residential apartments for rent. Bedenbaugh says more places to live is exactly what the area needs.
“There is a need for market rate apartments in this area. Right now, our occupancy rate is around 99 percent,” Bedenbaugh said.
“More people have been coming in, so I think they’re going to need to develop the shops to support the people that have been moving in,” shopper Roberta Hannibal said.
A walking track will also be constructed around the perimeter of the mall in phase one.
“Then we’ll expect after that to see restaurants and retail and more green space, public space to continue to be constructed in additional phases,” Bedenbaugh said.
And shoppers say they’re excited about the future of the Aiken Mall.
“I think it’s fantastic. I think it’ll be great to get some stores in here,” shopper Margaret Patricia Hudgins said.
“We’re excited to have the new mall being developed because nobody wants to drive by, you know a mall where there’s nothing there,” Hannibal said.
Bedenbaugh says some local businesses owners have even decided to relocate closer to the mall. The closed down Ruby Tuesday’s on Whiskey Road will be demolished, and an already existing Zaxby’s will move into that lot.
“Other businesses are interested in locating on Whiskey Road because again, that’s where a lot of traffic is,” Bedenbaugh said. “You have 30 thousand cars a day on average. So it makes sense you go where the most traffic is.”
Southeasten Development has not released what businesses will occupy the store fronts inside the Aiken Mall property.