The City of Aiken is considering changes to the layout of its buildings, but so far, only piecemeal changes appear to be in place.
It would benefit the City to develop a more concrete, long term plan to upgrade its buildings and improve the assets it has downtown.
For some time, City Council has discussed making alterations to the Municipal Building on Park Avenue, the Finance Building on Laurens Street and the Aiken Department of Public Safety office located on Newberry Street.
But the plans currently being discussed represent incremental changes such as moving Public Safety staff into the bottom floor of the Municipal Building, as well as moving the Aiken Downtown Development Association out of its current location.
Questions also linger as to what can be done with a conference room in the back of the Municipal Building. The space is currently used as a rental location for receptions, birthday parties and luncheons. Council has discussed leasing that space for a business, which would help in developing retail or a restaurant.
But City officials need to create a comprehensive outline for these changes – one that will give Aiken residents a better sense of what will happen in the future. Garnering feedback from the public would also be beneficial to make sure these plans fit a style that reflects Aiken and is the most efficient for taxpayers and staff.
In addition to the Administration and Finance Building and the Municipal Building, the City is also looking at upgrades to a third piece of property that could be an asset to the community. However, these plans are also still only conceptual.
Interim Aiken City Manager Roger LeDuc said the property, which is near Aiken Public Safety’s office off Newberry and is about 8,000 square feet, may be used for residential space or retail, but Council is still considering the options.
Council wisely plans to discuss these ideas and find a clearer path forward for these buildings at its next meeting. That’s a needed discussion.
The City has a number of choices on the table to consolidate or renovate its buildings, as well as money in place from the Capital Project Sales Tax funds.
Residents, however, need to know the expectations of Council and have a clearer sense of what downtown will look like in the future.