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Downtown Aiken revitalization plan is ‘shocking news’ to some

Published: Nov. 7, 2021 at 11:23 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Aiken city leaders are looking to revitalize downtown with a hotel, conference center, housing and parking garage.

We spoke to someone who owns a business on the block leaders plan to redevelop. The news shocked him, and this project is about to change his life.

For Alok Kumar Akse, the place is like home.

“I have spent a lot of money here to build this restaurant, and a lot of energy, lot of months. I did work by myself,” said Akse.

He owns Taj Aiken, an Indian food restaurant on Richland Ave.

He says they’ve been in this spot for about two and a half years.

“It’s a good location, it’s downtown, a lot of people come downtown to enjoy the food,” he said.

City leaders also think it’s a good location.

“This is probably the most iconic block, if not one of the most iconic blocks, in the city of Aiken,” said Keith Wood, chairman of the Aiken Municipal Development Commission.

Wood expects the commission to buy the land on Tuesday, paying $9.6 million for a block of downtown that includes the closed Hotel Aiken.

They want to turn it all into a hotel, conference center, parking garage and housing.

“This block has enormous amount of potential for us to grow and spur further development, and our city’s been asking for this, so we think it’s the right thing to do,” Wood said.

Taj Aiken is on that block, and included in that sale.

“I learned the news we had to close, so it’s shocking news for me,” said Akse.

Akse says he has at least nine months. After that, he doesn’t know what to do or where to go.

“The city has to think about the future of downtown, so it’s not bad, but for me it’s really hard,” said Akse.

Wood says developers will work with existing businesses like Taj Aiken to make sure they’re taken care of.

He says it will be a year or two before you start seeing major changes to the block.

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