Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles about Historic Aiken Foundation award winners.


Aiken City Manager Richard Pearce said his staff strives to preserve history and maintain the municipality's rich history.


One way the city has been able do this is through its Downtown Business District Façade Grant program. This year, that program received the Historic Aiken Foundation's Stewardship Award.


Since 2006, the City has awarded 35 grants for façade renovations around the downtown area.


A façade is defined as the face or front portion of a building facing a city street.


The owner of a building who wants façade improvements would first get approval from the city's Design Review Board and would initially pay for the work, according to Senior Planner Susan French.


The property owner could then request a 50 percent reimbursement from the city of that cost up to $10,000 through a grant.


The façade work would include painting, exterior repairs, door and window replacement, trim work, display windows, canopies, entrance ways and corrections of code violations, French said.


The cost of those projects are at least $564,119, and the city has provided $202,746 in grant reimbursements, according to French.


French said she has enjoyed watching the improvements made around the downtown area through the program.


“Because of these façade reimbursement grants, business owners have been able to make renovations that otherwise may not have been accomplished,” French said. “To think that since 2006, 35 buildings in the downtown area have made updates in part because of these grants should make all of us proud.”


Peace said those improvements help attract new businesses and development to the area. He added that there are so many times that people will look at some “old thing” and just disregard it, but when a preservationist looks at it, they do so with enthusiasm.


“It's really 'that old thing' that has tremendous value to defining what makes Aiken, Aiken,” Pearce said.


Last year, True Value Hardware and Betsy's on the Corner each received façade reimbursement grants for their renovations.


This is part of a series recognizing this year's Historic Aiken Foundation award winners. Look for the next story tentatively scheduled for our Feb. 23 edition.