Aiken leaders scrap plans for Project Pascalis downtown development

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Aiken Municipal Development Commission voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to end Project Pascalis.

Leaders with the project says they made the decision to “solve a technical issue.”

The plan called for renovating the crumbling but historic Hotel Aiken and making changes to Newberry Street.

Scrapping the plans allows the commission to start over with a new plan for downtown redevelopment, including the Hotel Aiken property.

Leaders say they still plan to redevelop downtown, but that project may not look the same as Project Pascalis.

The Project Pascalis plans weren’t loved by everyone, and even drew a lawsuit that claimed they violated multiple city ordinances and four state acts.

Among those named as defendants were Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, members of the Aiken City Council, the Aiken Municipal Development Commission and others.

Among the sticking points, the lawsuit claimed the hotel is listed as a historic site, and any application to tear it down should be denied.

Project Pascalis also drew some criticism from residents who got a peek during some sessions to unveil the plans and get feedback.

“When I saw they were building an apartment complex and a parking garage in a small block in a historic district, that was alarming,” Aiken resident Drew Johnson said after the unveiling of plans.

Another resident, Luis Rinaldini, said: “It shocked me, the notion they’re going to demolish the most historic building on the most historic block in Aiken.”

Concerns about Project Pascalis ranged from historic preservation to the size of the project.

Resident Debbie Brown said: “The overall feeling is that it’s too large. People do want development, but they want it in a controlled way, in a planned way, so that it makes sense with the infrastructure.”

Some didn’t want to see it stopped, just handled differently.

Rinaldini said: “We’re not opposed to the project; we’re not opposed to renovating this end of the block. It needs it. We want to see a good project go in there but not the way they’re doing it.”

City leaders held nearly 25 public meetings asking for feedback on the design, and the developers put some of that feedback into changing the design. Changes included lowering the height of the hotel and making other design tweaks.