Originally created 11/16/00

Residents will help shape city



AIKEN - Aiken residents will have three opportunities to have a say in what happens in the next decade when city officials hold public meetings on their strategic plan.

The meetings Nov. 28 and 29 will focus on preserving Aiken's historic roots; diversifying and improving the local economy; preserving the natural environment; and improving community life for families. Those are the four areas residents identified as important to them in 1992 when Aiken's first strategic plan was developed.

It's time to update that plan, City Manager Roger LeDuc said. The upcoming two-hour meetings are part of what he calls "a communitywide visioning process." There are three meeting to give people options on when to attend.

Meetings Nov. 28 are at 3 and 6 p.m. The Nov. 29 meeting is at 8 a.m. All will be in the conference center at the rear of the municipal building on Park Avenue.

Since 1992, the city has completed several projects that stem directly from residents' input to the strategic plan:

"The Green City" vision was a citywide network of paths for people, pets and horses, where development is designed to complement the natural environment rather than compete with it.

Since 1992, Aiken has developed and implemented landscape plans for all its gateways; streetscaped significant portions of downtown; provided public restroom facilities; and worked on a master plan for its showcase Hopeland Gardens.

"The Historic City" vision was the preservation of Old Aiken, underscoring its historic significance and its modern-day racial, social and economic diversity.

Since 1992, the city has developed incentives for people to live downtown and to renovate historical homes; adapted zoning to encourage housing in the downtown area and Old Aiken; developed more parking downtown; and added streetscaping and lighting.

"The Family City" vision was to provide a safe and stimulating environment for people to raise families.

Since 1992, the city has significantly expanded parks and recreation opportunities; helped neighborhoods develop resident-driven improvements; established a free medical clinic and assistance to reduce infant mortality; begun development of a festival site downtown; and expanded artistic and cultural opportunities.

"The Business City" vision was to achieve national eminence as a place where businesses thrive and are drawn by the business climate, way of life and educational progress.

Since 1992, the city has created the Aiken Development Corp.; established a marketing campaign; completed a speculative building for business prospects; developed business parks and a loan program for small businesses; established a visitor center; established the Greater Aiken Local Education Foundation; improved education programs; and established horse-drawn carriage tours of downtown.

Mr. LeDuc said the initial strategic plan has served as a guide for the city to this point and proved that public involvement produces innovative ideas.

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.