Design Review Board tours Hotel Aiken in preparation for development

Feb. 2—Holes in the floor, water damage and decomposition greeted members of the Design Review Board as they toured Hotel Aiken on Tuesday afternoon.

The tour comes as the blighted hotel, and the land it sits on, will be involved in Project Pascalis, the planned downtown Aiken revitalization project.

In fact, City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh described the building as the “centerpiece of any redevelopment that occurs on the Project Pascalis footprint.”

The DRB would be heavily involved with any endeavor regarding the hotel, as it is tasked with preserving and elevating the city’s historic features.

The tour covered all three levels of the hotel, as well as the basement. The building is currently in a state of disrepair, as it has sat dormant for some time after years of promised construction.

Immediately noticeable issues include holes in both the floors and ceilings, as well as pieces of timber and metal scattered across the floor of the lobby.

“Be careful where you’re stepping,” advised Mark Chostner, a local project manager who led the group through the hotel. “It’s not like our homes; there’s stuff here where if you step on it, you don’t know what it is. Please be careful because there’s places in here where you can step and get hurt.”

Looking up, one can see pieces of the joists and rafters have been cut out, with haphazard intrusions and chases inserted. This can weaken the structure of the entire building, and can be seen throughout the building.

Upstairs had many of the same problems, including holes in the floor and water damage. Empty cutouts can be seen in the walls where electrical wires, fire sprinklers or plumbing were once located.

The rooms on the second and third floors have been renovated several times, and a variety of materials can be seen including plaster wall and sheetrock.

After the tour, the board went into a work session where they discussed the hotel project. McDonald Law, board chair, said the developers have said they’d like to keep the board in the loop “rather than bringing a bunch of finished drawings in and voting up or down.”

“They’d like to meet with us about every two weeks at a work session,” Law said. “Then, as we get to the point where we can vote on something, we’ll put it on the agenda. The first one would be Feb. 17.”

″(The developers) have significant plans for substantial portions of the project every two weeks to bring to you,” said Tim O’Briant, Aiken’s economic development director. “It’s not to sit around and navel gaze. They really have material plans to bring to you.”

Photographs taken with a drone were also shown during the work session to show the outside and the top portion of the building, as it can’t be seen from ground level. These photos showed cracking around the exterior of the hotel, as well as damage on the roof from sitting water.

Hotel Aiken is currently on the Aiken Historic Register. For any action to be taken with the building regarding disassembly or demolition, it would need to be removed from that list.

The process of removing the hotel from the list is the same as being added to the list: an application is sent to Design Review Board, where members take it under consideration. The board would then forward its recommendation to the Aiken Planning Commission, which then makes its recommendation to Aiken City Council.

The building is expected to see work in the coming months and years as part of a larger revitalization plan .

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