AIKEN - Aiken's experiment in downtown living - luxury townhomes - appears to be a success, with four of six units already sold.
The $1 million Newberry Place townhomes are located between Newberry and Laurens streets west of Richland Avenue.
The facilitator of the project is The Aiken Corp., which was created by the city of Aiken to undertake redevelopment projects. One of their first goals was to spruce up downtown by getting rid of an auto body shop and the clutter of its trade on the main east-west corridor through town.
"We went to city council several years ago and said, `We've got a cancer in the heart of Aiken,' and asked them for a $350,000 grant, which they gave to us," said Wade Brodie, chairman of The Aiken Corp.
That money was used to buy a business on the site.
"Then we talked to property owners ... and got them to donate property and/or give a lease to the city, which allowed for the development of the streetscape and parking," Mr. Brodie said.
Mr. Brodie said a large part of the lease or easement obtained from the adjacent property owners, primarily stores along Laurens Street, was donated.
"The agreement with the city was that these people worked with us to either give us an easement or donate, and then the city agreed to do certain things to make those buildings look better," Mr. Brodie said.
Mr. Brodie said the contract to improve the rear of those buildings has been let, and work should begin very soon.
"The whole project should move along pretty fast now," Mr. Brodie said. "Getting the streetscape in and putting the power underground kind of slowed things up, but that's all squared away now."
The development of the property, he said, has been a unique cooperative effort between the city of Aiken and the property owners.
"We were very fortunate that all of the property owners worked with us," Mr. Brodie said. "Any one property owner could have killed the whole deal."
But the property owners saw the advantages the project has for them, he said. More residents downtown will mean more customers for downtown businesses.
Mr. Brodie said The Aiken Corp. already is looking at other sites for additional housing developments.
"We knew there was a market. It was just a matter of convincing people in the building business that there was a market they could make some money off of," Mr. Brodie said.
Newberry Place should serve as the core of additional redevelopment in the area, Mr. Brodie said. "It proved what we thought - that there is a good market for people wanting to live downtown."
Reach Rick Green at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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