Originally created 01/09/98

Aiken plans downtown apartments



AIKEN -- Residential development downtown may receive a boost if Aiken Corp. has its way.

The group, a nonprofit economic development arm of the city, is drawing up plans for moderately upscale apartments along Newberry Street north of Richland Avenue.

One of the group's missions is to spur downtown residential development, which city officials say has been stagnant in recent years.

"It would be a heck of a deal if we could pull it off," said Wade Brodie, chairman of Aiken Corp.

Plans are still sketchy, with at least three distinct layout designs being considered by members of the group's housing committee, which met Thursday.

But most members say a development including at least 28 apartments would be the most economically feasible option. The complex would include two to four buildings, depending on which design is approved.

The buildings probably would include ground-level parking with two stories of apartments.

Rent is expected to be about $450 for a one-bedroom apartment or from $600 to $800 for two bedrooms.

Architect consultant MacDonald Law has been retained by Aiken Corp. to draft preliminary designs.

One scenario Mr. Law has presented includes a Charleston-motif design with gardens and courtyard. Another design includes an indoor hallway.

Committee members previously had considered using the property for condominiums or an eight-home single family development. But members increasingly are backing the apartment-complex plan.

The project will include designing areas along the street to match similar landscaping downtown.

Aiken Corp. doesn't own the land needed for the project, though most property owners have expressed a desire to entertain proposals from the group.

One key parcel is Parker Auto Body. The property's owner, C.E. Parker, has expressed interest in the past in selling the lot to the city.

The group also must find a developer. "The biggest problem we'll have is trying to find a developer," said committee chairman Pat Cunning.