Aiken City Council member Dick Dewar is probably not too far off the mark when he says the prospective developer of the old hospital property will "ask for something."
Partnerships between cities and private investors go way back. North Augusta was asked to give monetary aid to Project Jackson, which is now Riverside Village and SRP Park.
So when it comes to the possible development by WTC Investments LLC at the old hospital site, there will probably be something coming.
WTC Investments is a private firm looking to buy the hospital property at 828 Richland Ave. W., and demolish the buildings there. The plan then is to build a hotel, conference center, parking garage, residential housing and walking trails, among other things.
Rumors are circulating about this is how the city will get its long-sought-after parking garage, conjuring up memories of the Renaissance.
"I’ll mention the dastardly word 'garage,'" Dewar said. "I've had several emails and because of all the turmoil regarding the Renaissance, people are concerned who’s going to own the garage, is the city going to build it, not build it and so forth. And that information is not yet available to the public.”
Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedebaugh said "there absolutely has not" been any kind of deal or contract struck between the city and WTC Investments.
Not yet, but Bedenbaugh felt like there were "very preliminary discussions" about a possible partnership.
Dewar was right in his discussion with Mayor Rick Osbon on Monday evening during the meeting.
“We just don't know the financial considerations that are going to be required of the city, and I'm a little reluctant to want to approve this package as it is without more knowledge of the cost," Dewar said. "If we don’t come to an agreement with the developer, for example, the developer may decide that it’s not feasible. So I think that’s very important information that the public needs to know."
The mayor followed by saying there is nothing done yet.
“And I would just say: There’s been no offers to anything, as far as the city. It’s not just not available, there’s no information to be had.”
But Dewar is confident something will be asked.
Absolutely. And let's be clear, there's nothing wrong with public-private partnerships, it can help a city grow.
We strongly support public hearings and transparency regarding anything asked financially by WTC Investments or other private companies seeking to enter into partnerships with our city.