27/09/2022

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Aiken businesses in footprint of Project Pascalis share reactions to redevelopment plans | Local Government

For businesses that would have to move if Aiken’s Project Pascalis moves forward as currently planned, much is still unknown. 

Project Pascalis is the city’s name for an estimated $75 million redevelopment project focused on the block bounded by Laurens Street, Richland Avenue, Newberry Street and Park Avenue in downtown Aiken.

The current plans for the project call for the demolition of the vacant Hotel Aiken, the Holley House and buildings where eight businesses are currently located: Vampire Penguin, Ginger Bee Boutique, Beyond Bijoux, Taj Aiken, Security Finance, On Board Realty, Warneke Cleaners and Newberry Hall.

Two other businesses within the footprint – The Wills Insurance Agency and Joe Harrison’s State Farm Agency – have moved since the announcement of the project.

In place of these buildings, the project calls for a 100-room hotel to be constructed on the corner of Richland Avenue and Laurens Street and an apartment complex and parking garage to be constructed on the corner of Richland Avenue and Newberry Street with the building’s footprint extending into Newberry Street. Additionally, the former city municipal building on Park Avenue would be expanded into a conference center.  

The Aiken Municipal Development Commission is currently exclusively negotiating with RPM Development Partners to determine the final shape of the project, and no master development agreement has been signed yet.

Tim O’Briant, executive director of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission and the city’s economic development director, said the businesses within the footprint had expressed concerns about their locations. He said the commission and city have had lots of dialogue with the businesses, and that the businesses were largely cautiously optimistic. 

The Aiken Standard reached out the individual businesses located within the current footprint of Project Pascalis to ask their opinions of the project and to ask what may be next for their businesses.  

Ginger Bee Boutique

Ginger Bee Boutique is located at 110 Laurens St. S.W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the new hotel’s footprint to be constructed on the site. 

It is not known if a new location has been found. Owner Brooke Thomas declined comment when contacted by the Aiken Standard on July 12 and July 21. 

Thomas is one of three business owners impacted by Project Pascalis to have a lease agreement with a definite end date.

The terms of the lease agreement are not known. However, a redacted document on the transparency page of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission website says the rent is either $1,500 or $1,600 per month and that the lease will expire on Feb. 28, 2023, March 31, 2023 or Jan. 31, 2024. 

Ginger Bee is one of the businesses renting space in the Beckman Building. When Shah Enterprises sold the property to the municipal development commission, it also assigned the lease for Ginger Bee to the commission. 

How the businesses with leases with the commission would receive financial assistance from the city is still to be determined. 

Vampire Penguin

A Vampire Penguin franchise is located at 108 Laurens St. S.W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the new hotel’s footprint to be constructed on the site. 

It is not known if a new location has been found. Owner and operator Jeanette Moseley declined comment on new locations twice when contacted by the Aiken Standard.

Moseley said in a late June Facebook post she did not believe the business could move into the block if and when the current Project Pascalis plans move forward. She said the rent would be too expensive.

Moseley is another of three business owners to have a lease agreement with the city. 

The terms of the lease agreement are not known. However, a redacted document on the transparency page of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission website says the rent is either $1,500 or $1,600 per month and that the lease will expire on Feb. 28, 2023, March 31, 2023 or Jan. 31, 2024. 

Vampire Penguin is another business renting space in the Beckman Building. Its lease was assigned to the municipal development commission when the building was sold.  

How the businesses with leases with the commission would receive financial assistance from the city is still to be determined.

Beyond Bijoux

Beyond Bijoux, another boutique, is located at 106 Laurens St. S.W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the new hotel’s footprint to be constructed on the site. 

Owner Bobby Walker said she had not found a new location. She said she had a lot of irons in the fire but no definite plans yet. She said she would be there until she is told that she needs to move.

Walker is the other business owner to have a lease agreement with a definite end date. 

The terms of the lease agreement are not known. However, a redacted document on the transparency page of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission website says the rent is either $1,500 or $1,600 per month and that the lease will expire on Feb. 28, 2023, March 31, 2023 or Jan. 31, 2024. 

Beyond Bijoux is the third business renting space in the Beckman Building. Its lease was also assigned to the municipal development commission when the building was sold.

How the businesses with leases with the commission would receive financial assistance from the city is still to be determined. 

Taj Aiken

Taj Aiken is located at 213 Richland Ave. W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the apartment building and parking garage to be constructed on the site. 

Taj Aiken owner Alok Kumar Akse said he had not found a new location yet. He said there were not a lot of options in the downtown area that were affordable when considering the renovations he would need to make to operate a restaurant.

Aske is one of five business owners to operate on a month-to-month arrangement with the Aiken Municipal Development Commission.

Agreements signed by the businesses with month-to-month arrangements and the Aiken Municipal Development Commission call for a notice to vacate term of 120 days and for the commission to provide all of the rent paid by Taj Aiken, less the expenses of paying a property manager, from December 2021 to the business when it vacates the building. The property manager that has been hired charges the city 50% of the the rent for the first month it manages the property, December 2021, and 10% of the rent for each month thereafter. 

How much money this would be would depend on the rent paid by Taj Aiken.

The Aiken Municipal Development Commission posted a document on its website with the leasing information for all the businesses currently renting property in the footprint of Project Pascalis. That document lists five month-to-month tenants with rents of $450, $675, $900, $2,700 and $3,000 per month. 

Assuming Taj Aiken pays $3,000 monthly rent, the total to be paid to Taj Aiken would be $20,400 to date with that number increasing by $2,700 per month.

Assuming the business pays a $450 monthly rent, the total to be paid to Taj Aiken would be $3,060 to date with that number increasing by $405 per month. 

Security Finance

Security Finance is a small loan business located at 211 Richland Ave. W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for most of the building to be demolished and part of the apartment building and parking garage to be constructed on the site. 

Around 10 feet of the front facade of the building would be preserved to mark the location of the historic C.C. Johnson Drug Store. 

The Aiken Standard was unable to reach someone to speak with regarding future plans of the business. A reporter visited the business on July 12 and July 19 and was told that a manager was not available to speak for the business. 

Security Finance is one of the businesses operating on a month-to-month arrangement with the city. 

Agreements signed by the businesses with month-to-month arrangements and the Municipal Development Commission call for a notice to vacate term of 120 days and for the commission to provide all of the rent paid by Security Finance, less the expenses of paying a property manager, from December 2021 to the business when it vacates the building.  

How much money this would be depends on the rent paid by Security Finance.

On Board Realty

On Board Realty is located at 207 Richland Ave. W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for most of the building to be demolished and part of the apartment building and parking garage to be constructed on the site. 

Around 10 feet of the front facade of the building would be preserved to mark the location of the historic C.C. Johnson Drug Store. 

Patricia Lucas, broker in charge at On Board Realty, said she had already found a location one block north on Barnwell Avenue.

She added she was thrilled with the project and her new location. She said the business would be next to ice cream and coffee shops.

Lucas is another business owner operating under a month-to-month arrangement with the Aiken Municipal Development Commission. 

Agreements signed by the businesses with month-to-month arrangements and the Aiken Municipal Development Commission call for a notice to vacate term of 120 days and for the commission to provide all of the rent paid by On Board Realty, less the expenses of paying a property manager, from December 2021 to the business when it vacates the building.  

How much money this would be would depend on the rent paid. 

Warneke Cleaners

Warneke Cleaners is located at 113 Newberry St. S.W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the apartment building and parking garage to be constructed on the site. 

A Warneke employee said Thursday that a new location had not been found. 

Warneke Cleaners is another of the businesses operating on a month-to-month arrangement with the Aiken Municipal Development Commission. 

Agreements signed by the businesses with month-to-month arrangements and the Aiken Municipal Development Commission call for a notice to vacate term of 120 days and for the commission to provide all of the rent paid by Warneke Cleaners, less the expenses of paying a property manager, from December 2021 to the business when it vacates the building.  

How much money this would be would depend on the rent paid. 

Newberry Hall

Newberry Hall is located at 117 Newberry St. S.W.

The proposed Project Pascalis plans call for the building to be demolished and part of the apartment building and parking garage to be constructed on the site.

Newberry Hall has been granted the right of first refusal to operate the conference center currently proposed to be built. 

Newberry Hall owner Natalie Carlisle said she was focused on working to serve the current customers of the business.

She said the proposed project seemed to be moving quickly but has slowed down. 

Newberry Hall has a lease agreement with the Aiken Municipal Development Commission. 

Businesses that have already moved

Three other businesses have already moved from their locations within the Project Pascalis footprint. 

The Wills Insurance Agency moved from its location on Richland Avenue to 116-A Pendleton St. on May 31.

Around 10 feet of the front facade of the building it previously occupied would be preserved to mark the location of the historic C.C. Johnson Drug Store. 

The Aiken Standard visited the agency’s new location and was told to call the main office in Batesburg. A phone call to that office was not returned by press time. 

Joe Harrison’s State Farm Agency was located south of Newberry Hall on Newberry Street. It moved earlier this year to 417 Fabian Drive next to Bath and Body Works in Hitchcock Plaza. 

Harrison said July 14 that his move was not directly caused by the plans for Project Pascalis. He said he had reached an agreement with a retiring insurance agent to move to another location near downtown and to sell his building to a developer. The agreement with that insurance agent fell through, and Harrison moved his agency to the Southside. 

He added he was happy downtown and misses being downtown, but said it’s better for his business to be on the Southside. 

The former Playoffs Sports Bar and Grill, located at the corner of Richland Avenue and Newberry Street, closed in 2018 after its owners opened Tailgate Tavern in The Alley.

Around 10 feet of the front facade of that building is planned to be preserved to mark the location of the historic C.C. Johnson Drug Store. 

Next steps

O’Briant and Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon have both said the city is committed to helping the businesses in the Project Pascalis footprint. 

However, a potential roadblock to the project is a lawsuit filed by several Aiken residents seeking an injunction to prevent the city and Aiken Municipal Development Commission from moving forward. 


Lawsuit asks court to permanently stop Project Pascalis from moving forward in Aiken

Plans for Project Pascalis have not yet been approved by the Aiken City Council, the Aiken Municipal Development Commission or the Aiken Design Review Board.

If and until this happens, no master development agreement between RPM and the Aiken Municipal Development Commission can be signed.

And until the agreement is signed, everything about the project is subject to change – including construction timelines, what the final project will look like, whether any or all of the businesses would have to move, or if the project will go forward at all.