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Aiken officials await news on $1M loan for Williamsburg Street rehabilitation

Tim O'Briant, AMDC Meeting, TV Plans

Tim O'Briant, the city of Aiken's development director, walks through plans during the Aiken Municipal Development Commission's Tuesday afternoon meeting. (Colin Demarest/Staff)

City of Aiken officials are expecting to soon hear news on a potential $1 million loan that would facilitate the rehabilitation of the Williamsburg Street corridor and the historic farmers market area.

Tim O’Briant, the city’s development director, on Tuesday told members of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission that the city’s pursuit of the sum, administered via a Department of Housing and Urban Development program, was going well and “moving forward.”

“We’ve had a couple of conference calls with Housing and Urban Development officials, who have been very impressed with the application,” O’Briant said.

A decision is expected in the coming weeks. Exactly when, though, is unclear, according to O’Briant.

The money, if secured, would be used to significantly improve the streetscape and stormwater situations throughout the Williamsburg Street area, where the Aiken County Farmers Market is located.

The sought-after Section 108 money can fund economic development, housing and other physical development projects, according to HUD, and is often used to fill a financing gap or to catalyze private investment.

“Section 108’s unique flexibility and range of applications makes it one of the most potent and important public investment tools that HUD offers to state and local governments,” the department explained on its website.

Documents available for public review show Aiken is targeting the Williamsburg Street corridor, east of downtown, for serious enhancement; conceptual plans and other renderings depict a swath of infrastructure upgrades as well fresh housing and retail options.

“The conceptual plan that we’re working under is simply an aspirational idea of what could be,” O’Briant said in an interview last month. “It is not a plan that has to be delivered in any specificity – it’s to help us secure the grants and prove the concept, and then the specifics will be left up to, largely, the market.”

Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson on Tuesday described the Williamsburg Street rework – still very much in its infancy – as “so important.” The completed project, Jameson said, could spur bands of growth and redevelopment in the area.

In total, the Williamsburg Street endeavor is expected to cost some $9 million. The private sector is expected to foot most of the bill.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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