Become well-informed on Renaissance Project
Aiken City Manager John Klimm shared the facts about the Renaissance Project with Chamber members at November’s First Friday Means Business breakfast meeting. The goals of the project are to:
* Recruit a quality development team to work with the City to purchase and to redevelop the City’s property at 135 Laurens Street with ground floor retail and upper floor residential uses.
* Rehabilitate the present Municipal Building on Park Avenue into a consolidated City Hall with both public and private sector uses.
* Work with the private sector on one of the premier blocks in the downtown area, built on the present Anderson and Shah properties on Richland and Newberry Streets, to include retail on the ground level, a municipal parking garage and housing above. This final initiative represents a singular opportunity to capitalize on the soon to be restored Hotel Aiken and will be a prime component in furthering the prosperity of the downtown.
In addition to sharing the goals of the project, an information sheet of frequently asked questions was distributed to the sold-out crowd. Klimm’s presentation may be viewed on the City of Aiken YouTube channel under the title Aiken Business Matters - November 9, 2016: Downtown Renaissance. A transcript of the presentation is available at www.aikenchamber.net/renaissance.
What is an option?
An option is a contract on real estate that gives someone the exclusive right to purchase the property. Once a buyer [the City] has an option to buy a property, the seller cannot sell the property to anyone else until the option expires. The option holder [the City] is under no obligation to purchase.
Is the City Council bound by this option?
No, the City Council can decide to transfer the option or let the option lapse or expire.
Why did we ask for an option?
We asked for an option to give our City a say on the future of this important downtown location.
If a development team is selected to purchase the option and develop the property, will it be through a competitive and open process?
Yes, an open, advertised, and public Request for Qualifications [RFQ] process governed by our procurement code and overseen by legal and procurement professionals is proposed to be used.
Will existing businesses be given consideration?
Yes, unlike what would happen if the property was simply sold on the market, the City will ask each development team to detail if and how each present tenant will be accommodated. While this is not a protection guarantee, present tenants will be given more consideration than would be the case without City involvement.
Why should the City sell the Administration and Finance Building on Laurens Street?
The Administration and Finance building, located on the primary commercial artery in our downtown, is one of three properties we currently own downtown. We want to put this property back on the tax rolls under private investment. We simply don’t need three properties and the future private sector development of this property could expand retail and housing opportunities downtown.
If a Parking Garage is built, how do we pay for it?
If built, the parking garage will be paid for with the Hospitality Tax.
Will architectural design consistent with our Downtown be followed?
Yes, architectural design will be a key component of the RFQ.
How much did the options cost, where did the money come from and what do we get for it?
The option for the property owned by Ms. Anderson cost $5,000 [five thousand dollars] and the Shah property option cost $1 [one dollar]. Funding is from the City Economic Reinvestment Fund. For that consideration and both property owners have agreed to not list the property and to abide by the option agreement.