What if you could help design and implement the best example of a transformed “Opportunity Zone” in SC – by working with neighbors to build a team, using all the tools available, to create a diverse mixed use community that is sustainable for 100 years?
That is a tall order but Aiken City Councilwoman, Gail Diggs, is offering exactly that opportunity by hosting Richland East neighborhood townhalls on consecutive weekends during March. She has high hopes that Senator Tim Scott, who is championing the Federal Opportunity Zone legislation, will be able to use Aiken as an example of successful community building based on people, place, and profits! Opportunity zones are designed to help stimulate private investment in traditionally marginalized communities. However, “OZs” are just one tool in the Aiken community development tool kit!
The Richland East neighborhood has seen a lot of action and initiatives over the past year and a half. It is poised to become the next development area in Downtown Aiken. Between Downtown Business rezoning, expansion of the light industrial zone’s allowable uses, and Federal Opportunity Zone designation, this area has been top of mind in Aiken lately. The highly successful Aiken Board of Realtors sponsored “Ideas Collaborative” – which included a project kickoff visit from Senator Scott – has helped raise awareness and document community ideas generated by grassroots citizens. There are many stakeholders in the Richland East neighborhood working toward visions of what it could be to Aiken’s future. Blending those visions and working together toward common goals is imperative for success. Now is the time to be proactive!
Councilwoman Diggs has gathered many community grassroots leaders to help her lead this effort. All are welcome to participate to share your ideas/visions/expertise for creating a model sustainable community for the next 100 years.
A Sustainable Community takes into account, and addresses, multiple human needs, not just one at the exclusion of all others. It is a place where people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives
feel welcome and safe, where every group has a seat at the decision-making table,
and where prosperity is shared. It takes a long-term perspective –focusing on anticipating and adapting to change in both the present and future. https://sustain.org/about/what-is-a-sustainable-community/
About Richland East
The Richland East area is bordered by Union and Beaufort Streets between Barnwell and Park Avenues. This area is home to many churches, diverse housing, and businesses. It sits within the original Aiken parkways grid. Richland East is included in the federally designated Aiken Opportunity Zone. Downtown Aiken was recently expanded when the properties between Union and Williamsburg along Richland Avenue was rezoned to Downtown Business in an effort to expand downtown housing and affordable business opportunities. Most recently, based on actions prioritize out of the “Ideas Collaborative”, the light industrial portion of this neighborhood had its allowable uses expanded to include retail, housing, warehousing, and live/work/play applications – effectively opening the whole Richland East area up to be a vibrant mixed-use community. There are a lot of properties for sale in this area. Proactive zoning changes are in place and there are many tools, in addition to tax credits, available.
Stakeholders in the Richland East neighborhood include young and old residents, businesses, churches, businesses, community development corporations, historic preservation activists, opportunity zone funds, realtors and property owners – in addition to municipalities. Blending the visions of the diverse stakeholders will help everyone gain a common understanding.
About the Townhall Meetings
The intent of these townhalls is to begin networking and communicating about proactive efforts to build a neighborhood that all stakeholders can be happy living, working and playing in! Gail Diggs says she is excited to host these proactive townhalls. If citizens come together to create a plan and drive it for the Richland East neighborhood, in 5 years it can be a success story. Otherwise, in 5 years, we will still be talking about it! Bring your ideas to one of the sessions outlined below. #EngageExchangeExcel
Maps of the area detailing the zoning, historic areas, landmarks and lots will be available at the townhall sessions. City staff will be available to answer questions and provide additional information.
Session 1- an Ideas Collaborative- is scheduled for Saturday, March 8 from 4:00 – 6:00pm.
Meet at the Farmers Market on Williamsburg Street between Richland and Park Avenue. Respond to the Facebook event here.
- There will be an overview discussion of the area followed by self guided walking tours with area maps for you jot down notes. (Bicycles/car tours are welcome, too.)
- After touring, ideas will be shared related to parking, safety, best parkways, significant features/assets, and whatever thoughts entered your mind.
- The purpose of this townhall is to begin blending stakeholder visions to create a “brand” so that neighbors can effectively and proactively work together toward a sustainable future for the area for the next 100 years.
- This session will piggy back on The Ideas Collaborative initiative undertaken by the Aiken Board of Realtors this fall during the #connectAiken Aiken City Limits Music Festival to continue to gather ideas for actions.
Session 2- an Entrepreneur Faire- is scheduled for Saturay, March 28th from 9:00am – 1:00pm
(This article was updated with the rain date above.)
Located at the Indie Arts Vintage Market on the corner of Horry Street and Park Avenue. Respond to the Facebook event here.
- The expansion of the downtown business and light industrial uses makes this area a haven for entrepreneurship – a key component of a sustainable community. There are many incentives available for this area and expansion of the Farmers Market area is a component of the Old Aiken Master Plan.
- Come meet craftsmen and small business owners interested in expanding their businesses. The market will have a “skill sharing” focus for others interested in learning how these small businesses produce their products and operate.
- If you would like to be a vendor, email Beautifulfabric@AOL.com for more information.
- There will be some skill sharing crafts for students to experience, a music and spoken word Open Mic all afternoon, and refreshments.
- The City of Aiken will have a “Doing Business in Aiken” booth and the “Ideas Collaborative” will continue.
Session 3 – Business Opportunities – is scheduled for Thursday, March 19, from 3:00pm – 5:00pm.
Meet at Farmers Market on Williamsburg Street between Park Avenue and Richland Avenue. Respond to the Facebook event here.
- City staff will present information about Opportunity Zones, Facade grants, business incentives, land development rules and all the other tools available for business development in the Richland East neighborhood.
- Self-guided tour maps will be provided and followed by a breakout session to share ideas and ask more questions.
- Realtors are encouraged to hold commercial and residential open houses and a list will be provided.
Aiken Blend is pleased to help sponsor and communicate about these Richland East Townhalls. Our staff has been involved in many conversations related to entrepreneurship, land use, opportunity zones, and more. We hope to see you at one of the townhall sessions.
We’re a diverse bunch of collaborators who all chip in to help improve communications in Aiken -because that’s crucial to becoming an all inclusive compelling place to live, work, and play. Interested in joining the team as an Intern or Contributor? We are always looking for passionate, shiny, happy people to Engage/Exchange/Excel in Aiken. Email us at Hello@AikenBlend.Com.