AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)– People of Aiken are working to preserve a rich piece of history in the city.
The old Aiken hospital has been sitting vacant for years, but some are hoping that will soon change. A developer has plans to buy the medical center and make it home to 60 lofts.
It’s where thousands were born and where others said their last goodbyes to loved one– The old Aiken hospital is more than a building. It’s a piece of history that many people told county council needs to stay alive.
“The easy answer is demolition, but the right answer: The one that makes the most financial for our future, the one that is a catalyst for increased tax revenues is adaptive reuse, not demolition,” Charlotte Wiedenman, President of the Historic Aiken Foundation, said at Tuesday’s Aiken County Council meeting.
“The plan that is out there: Sixty loft apartments,” Michael Smith said at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “I am fascinated by this plan. We support this plan full-heartedly.”
The county has some options: To sell the 10 acre property the hospital sits on to a preservation-minded developer, to demolish the building and sell the land or sell it to a private group who would demolish and build new.
Andrew Siders, Vice Chairman of Aiken County Council, took his first breath in the old hospital.
“It’s just easier I guess to build a brand new structure, but if we tear down all of the old buildings, we are not left with a heritage,” Siders explained. “We are not left with a past.”
He said the vacant building costs the county at least $5,000 monthly.
But Bryan Haltermann, President of Haltermann Partners, Inc., has a plan. He submitted a formal proposal to Aiken County and wants to use a Federal Investment Tax, which requires most of the original architecture to remain.
“The exterior is just obvious: The red Brick, the Willis Irvin design, the windows that are there,” Haltermann told NewsChannel 6. “The inside, there are fewer character giving features.”
This large-scale loft concept would be a first in Aiken County.
“It’s a gateway to the City of Aiken, so I am sure they are very interested in what happens there as well,” Siders told us. “It will be a place that brings economic benefit to the area.”
Supporters and County Council members are holding a rally to preserve the old Aiken hospital Saturday at 3.
The county is asking all formal proposals regarding the old building be submitted by February 15th.
No word yet on when a decision will be made.