Aiken chosen for Main Street South Carolina program
Aiken is one of the newest members of Main Street South Carolina, a program that offers technical support and training to help bring new life to downtowns around the state. The first three years of membership are labeled Boot Camp to show the intensity of hard work expected from the new members and the Municipal Association working with them.
Main Street South Carolina, uses the National Main Street Center’s four-point approach, a strategy focused on building a strong organization for downtown, promoting the central business district, enhancing downtown buildings through good design and upkeep, and diversifying the downtown economic base. While each city determines its own goals, training and support from Main Street South Carolina includes architectural services , focus group facilitation, training and technical assistance.
Aiken City Manager John Klimm had experience working with the program in two other states before coming to Aiken. He said he knew the city could benefit from the technical assistance and approach.
“While Aiken does not need a major overhaul,” Klimm explained, “city leaders want to look at areas such as the lack of downtown housing, as an attraction for future growth.”
“There’s a desire to return to downtown to live, work and play, but we are not positioned well in that regard,” Klimm said. “Aiken is a hidden jewel. There is so much to offer seasonal visitors and weekend visitors that we can promote. Unfortunately, there are downtowns across the nation that really face challenges - that’s not Aiken. Aiken has a wonderful downtown that could be even better. What’s missing is the technical expertise that the Main Street South Carolina program can provide.”
Beppie Legrand, manager of Main Street South Carolina agreed, “This is a great opportunity for Aiken to build on the wonderful resources that currently exist.”
That feeling was echoed by J. David Jameson, President and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. “Aiken has a strong downtown but knows that it cannot become complacent. The Main Street South Carolina program will help us sharpen our focus. We want to build a downtown that is the envy of the Southeast.”
Jameson said the downtown provides an excellent mix of businesses for baby boomers and older citizens, but he would like to see an additional focus on gift, dining, services and affordable housing to appeal to the growing population of young professionals. He predicts existing businesses will enthusiastically support the downtown revitalization program if they are on the ground floor in developing the plan.
“The Aiken community is already showing its support of the program as evidenced by the excellent participation in a baseline assessment conducted February 9 and 10,” said Emory Langston, special projects coordinator with the City of Aiken.
“We all love Aiken and will work to build the best product available,” Jameson said. “People in Aiken believe that if you’re lucky enough to live in Aiken…you’re lucky enough. The Main Street South Carolina program will be another initiative to help us prove our point.”