Redevelopment of Aiken Mall slowly making progress, but demolition start date still hasn't been set

·3 min read

Jul. 22—No date to begin demolition has been set, but the effort to redevelop the Aiken Mall property is moving forward, albeit very slowly.

Southeastern Development Associates of Augusta submitted architectural and landscape plans for a new apartment complex with 256 Class A units to City of Aiken staff for review July 16.

"It probably will be about a week and a half" before the site plan is ready to be delivered, Jason Long, a Southeastern vice president, told the Aiken Standard on Wednesday.

Such paperwork, which consists primarily of drawings, is called a permit set and generally is required by a local jurisdiction before it will issue a construction permit.

Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh described the recent submission of the plans as "a big step" in what already has been a long and drawn out process.

"It has taken a while to get to this point, but we are pleased," he said.

In 2016, Southeastern acquired the Aiken Mall and announced that it would be turning it into a mixed-use commercial and retail venue with a village-like atmosphere and green space.

Southeastern CEO Vic Mills said the finished product would be similar to the Shelter Cove Towne Centre, which is among the company's other projects.

Shelter Cove is on Hilton Head Island.

More recently, during Aiken's State of the City event early in 2020, Mills announced that a luxury apartment complex would be built on the Aiken Mall property at a cost of more than $30 million dollars.

Later in 2020, the Aiken Planning Commission and Aiken City Council approved a conceptual master plan for the redevelopment project that also included structures for stores and restaurants.

According to the drawings submitted recently to the City of Aiken, there will be eight three-story residential buildings and a one-story clubhouse with a swimming pool in the apartment complex.

The structures will be located "around a central public park," Long said. The park and a trail are currently in the design as well.

"Primarily, there will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units," he continued. "But there will be some garages that also will be available for rent sprinkled throughout the complex."

Construction is expected to take 18 to 20 months to complete "once we start going vertical," Long said.

But first, the Aiken Mall must be torn down, which Long estimated would be a "four- to five-month process."

Nearly all of the shopping center will be razed.

Only the areas where Belk is located now and the where Dillard's men's department used to be will remain intact.

"We have a identified our contractor" for that phase of the redevelopment effort, but a demolition date "can't be disclosed at this time," Long said. "We hope to start soon."

Currently, "we are relocating some electrical panels that maintain our parking lot lights because those panels currently are in the interior of the mall," Long reported.

Southeastern also is working on the designs for the new retail buildings.

"We have some letters of intent, but we're not quite ready to announce any tenants yet," Long said.

The Books-A-Million store in the Aiken Mall closed in July.

"At this point, we do not have a deal with Books-A-Million to come back even though we would love to have them come back," Long said.

Belk is the last business still open in the Aiken Mall.

When asked if Belk would be staying long-term, Long said, "We think that they are."

"Their lease is still in force, and they are still there," he added.

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