The deal to sell the old Aiken County hospital isn’t dead.
In fact, “we are optimistic that we’re getting close” to finalizing an agreement, said Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian on Feb. 25.
“We’ve been having some very good discussions with the developer,” he added. “I know it’s taken a while, but this is a very complicated deal.”
In June of last year, Aiken County Council unanimously approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that authorizes the county to sell the old hospital to 828 Richland Avenue Associates LLC.
Columbia developers Al Saad and Charles I. Small are the company’s principals.
The ordinance states that Richland Avenue Associates will pay “no less” than $1.15 million for the old hospital and the 9.33-acre tract on which it stands on Richland Avenue West in Aiken.
For a time, the old hospital served as the headquarters for Aiken County’s government.
According to the ordinance, Richland Avenue Associates’ plans for the property include the development of housing and/or mixed use, “subject to feasibility.”
Saad told the Aiken Standard last year his and Small's plans included renovating and repurposing the old hospital, which was built prior to World War II.
Some Aiken residents have been very vocal in their efforts in the past to preserve the old hospital.
But coming up with a strategy to protect the brick structure that is financially practical has been a challenge, Killian said.
That is one reason why the deal with Richland Avenue Associates is taking so long to close.
“They want to save the building,” Killian said. “We have heard from a lot of the community that they would like to see that building saved, and they (Richland Avenue Associates) are trying to accommodate that. But it’s just not easy to do. It’s an old structure that is difficult to renovate, and it’s not inexpensive to renovate. They’re trying to make their numbers work and get their plan in place. They have a great idea for the property that I think everybody will be happy with when it happens.”
Another issue has been the telecommunication tower on the old hospital’s property.
South Carolina Educational Television, or ETV, owns the 410-foot-tall structure.
In addition to ETV, the Aiken Department of Public Safety, Aiken County Public School District, Aiken County Emergency Medical Services and others use the tower for communications.
The structure is scheduled to be demolished.
A new tower will be built on land behind the Department of Public Safety’s headquarters, which is on Beaufort Street.
“The cost is probably going to be more than we thought it would be,” Killian said. “I don’t what the numbers are yet. We really haven’t figured that out. But everybody knows that the tower needs to be moved to make that property marketable. We’re pretty confident that it’s going to get moved, but we’re not sure of the time frame just yet.”