The City of Aiken’s Downtown Development Project (DDP) will not include a paring facility at the corner of Richland Avenue and Newberry Street, collectively known as the Anderson and Shah tracts, Aiken City Manager John Klimm announced Thursday.
Despite extensive efforts, stakeholders have not been able to reach financial and logistical arrangements that are agreeable to the City, its residents, and the existing businesses operating within the area. Extensive citizen input has indicated that a parking solution Downtown has wide support, but not at the originally proposed location.
“We’ve listened to everyone who has weighed in on the plan,” Mayor Rick Osbon said. “While the consultants told us this was the most central and preferred location and that we should not miss the opportunity when it came up for sale, many City residents told us they’d feel more comfortable with another site so that’s where we’re headed. One of the big upsides of moving on the alternatives is that it allows me to once again take a leadership role in the process of taking our Downtown to great new heights.”
Osbon said he believes this prominent block will eventually be redeveloped by the private sector as City projects and the $11 million renovation of the Hotel Aiken proceed Downtown. The City will stand ready to protect the charm and character of Aiken, Osbon said, adding that he hopes the existing businesses on the block have an opportunity to participate and prosper in any future development. As a next step of the DDP, the City hopes to announce alternatives in early 2018 that incorporate the core goals envisioned in the initial plan:
- The efficient consolidation of City services into a single facility that allows surplus property to be developed and returned to the tax rolls.
- The infusion of additional residential units to the Downtown, which will serve as a key driver that protects the viability of the district and spurs economic development.
- Expansion of current and recruitment of new retail to the Downtown that will serve the residents, visitors and workers that frequent the area.
- A comprehensive parking solution potentially involving a parking structure along with additional surface parking to meet the needs for additional spaces now and as the need for them grows along with the increased vibrancy of Downtown.
For the past five months, the City of Aiken staff has been working to modify and improve the Downtown Development Project to protect the uniqueness of the Downtown area and to respond to concerns raised by Aiken residents. The City held six public meetings to receive citizen input and have been reworking plans to respond to those suggestions and concerns. Among the chief priorities of the DDP is protecting the special nature of Downtown Aiken, including the unique architecture and the longstanding hometown spirit of the commercial district.
“We have listened to resident concerns and suggestions and have incorporated their concerns into the modified plan. We need to change the original plan to improve it and to safeguard the priorities set forth for the DDP”, stated City Manager John Klimm.
City Council Member Lessie Price commented on the process stating, “Our Council has promised a collaborative process that includes residents’ concerns and that is why we’ve had many public meetings but have not yet had a first reading on the Downtown Development Project. While this process has taken longer than expected, we are listening and responding and put forward a strong downtown project that present and future residents can be proud of.”