The Aiken City Council on Monday night authorized a roughly $11 million purchase of the Regions Bank building, one of many steps that could culminate in the consolidation and disposition of city-owned downtown property.
The vote was 5-1. City Council member Dick Dewar voted against it, and City Council member Andrea Gregory was absent. Dewar, who is not seeking reelection in November, described the purchase as more of a want than a need.
The buy will be formally executed once the bank building, about 90 years old, is renovated. The updates could take upward of two years to complete, according to city documents.
The building will be bought from SE Palmetto LLC, a subsidiary of Southeastern Development.
The total transaction would be similar to the completed Aiken Department of Public Safety headquarters project, Mayor Rick Osbon and City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh said Monday night.
The building and premises at 107 Chesterfield St. S. is meant to replace the city's municipal and finance hubs – 214 Park Ave. S.W. and 135 Laurens St. S.W. Administrative operations and City Council chambers, among other things, would shift east to the new so-called city hall.
"We anticipate that, like the Public Safety headquarters project, city needs will be met for many years at this location," reads a memo signed by Bedenbaugh. He reiterated that point Monday night.
The Regions Bank building is three floors and more than 24,000 square-feet in size. It sits on almost an acre of land and has a paved parking lot.
Osbon teased the purchase idea during an Aiken Rotary Club presentation near the end of July. He called it a "win" for the city at the time.
On Monday, Osbon said the building "checks a lot of boxes."
City leaders have for years discussed reducing the city's footprint in the downtown grid. It was brought up in the "Renaissance" and was again addressed near the end of 2017 when a new downtown plan was rolled out.
Aiken's former city manager, John Klimm, has said selling "surplus city property is big." Osbon has said getting everything under one roof was a long-term goal.
Funding for the purchase comes from a "variety" of sources, Bedenbaugh said, including capital projects sales tax funds and the sale of existing city property.