Ideas to bring young people to Aiken include downtown apartments, water park

Aiken leaders are wondering why the city can't attract and keep young people. (WRDW-TV)
Aiken leaders are wondering why the city can't attract and keep young people. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Jan. 25, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It was a room full of bright minds. On Friday, the Aiken Young Professionals tried to tackle a big issue during their focus group at the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. Why can't the city attract and keep young people?

Why don't young people like Jake Corbin want to live here forever?

"I'd say Aiken revolves more around older people. No offense to the older people out there," said Corbin, a mechanical engineering student at USC Aiken.

In his off time, he admits that he goes to Augusta frequently. He's lived in Aiken all his life, but he's only been downtown a handful of times.

"There's not much to do, really. If we added in some more stuff, it would be great, such as what Augusta has compared to what here has," Corbin said.

He'd like to see an 18-year-old and older dance club. He'd also like more modern clothing stores. Right now, the Aiken Mall is jokingly called the Aiken Hall by many, he says.

He also wants cheaper food options, too.

"You know, instead of $10 a plate, we'd like some place that maybe, you know, is two to five bucks a plate," said the college student.

For USC Aiken Student Government Association President Tripp Warrick, the reforms start right here at USC Aiken.

"A lot of people have the tendency to settle down where they go to college at, especially if they like the area, so one of the big things we should focus on is bring more majors to the college," he said.

Many of these issues were brought up by the Aiken Young Professionals. They'll make their case to the city on Monday. Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price is already listening.

"I think what came out the discussions today and the issues that probably face us as the Young Professionals is mixed development," said Derrick McLane, Aiken Young Professional's chair-elect.

McLane says Aiken also needs affordable apartment homes downtown to attract a younger crowd. Then, he says, other businesses will follow to meet a new demand.

Many other ideas were discussed in the focus group. Everything from a water park to more green space to weekly concert nights. They also talked about better marketing to let people know what's already available.

The Aiken Young Professionals will present their vision to council Monday at 7 p.m.

Price says it's an important topic because young people are the economic driver for anywhere, not just Aiken.

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