Aiken City employees will soon have a new building to move into.
The head office is the former home of Regions Bank and the Henderson Hotel, located at 111 Chesterfield St. S. in downtown Aiken. The headquarters is expected to open in March or April.
Currently, workers can be seen inside and outside the building, putting the finishing touches on all aspects of the premises.
The $13.58 million project is meant to be long-lasting, yet flexible for growth, according to City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh. He said around 65 employees will have their offices in the building when it opens, but there is room for up to 90 people.
“We look at this building as where we’re going to be for decades, generations,” Bedenbaugh said. “So it’s a flexible design where as needs, requirements and tasks change over the life of that building, the building can change with it internally.”
Of the total cost, $11.21 million was for building rehabilitation and development, Bedenbaugh said. The remaining balance of approximately $2,559,000 was for infrastructure upgrades and other costs related to equipping a building.
The facade and exterior of the building are unchanged, but the interior has undergone a radical transformation to update the structure to modern standards.
A three-story titan of approximately 35,000 square feet, each floor will accommodate different departments. The first floor will house the planning department, building inspections, water and property tax payments, business licenses, revenue administrators and tourist offices.
The second floor will house the CEO’s office and administrators, human resources, risk management, IT and economic development.
Conference rooms and storage spaces permeate the building on every floor, providing employees with plenty of space.
The third floor will house the new council chambers and the mayor’s office. Although the rooms are about the same size in terms of seating as the old rooms, Bedenbaugh said the technology in the room has been improved.
The building was originally constructed in 1930 as the Henderson Hotel. In the 1960s, Palmetto Federal purchased the building and it eventually became a Bank of the Regions, which closed in early 2019.
Mayor Rick Osbon, in his State of the City address on Monday, noted that the building was designed by architect Willis Irvin.
In financial terms, Bedenbaugh said Southeastern purchased the building in August 2019 and the city entered into an agreement with them for the renovation, similar to funding for the Aiken Public Safety Department building.
“(The city) is funding $6 million for the project, and we paid $5,021,000 using 1% sales tax funds and other funds set aside for the purchase of the building,” said Bedenbaugh said. “The balance, we’re funding over 20 years. The proceeds to pay off that amount will come from the same pot of money we use for the public safety building, which is the franchise fee fund. (Anyone who pays an electricity bill pays a 5% franchise fee, a portion of that revenue goes towards paying the loans we have on public safety and this building.”
Works by local artists will decorate the building, Bedenbaugh said, and the city is working with the Aiken County Historical Museum to put a timeline of Aiken’s history in the stairwell.
Overall, the city manager said there was excitement for the building to open and for everyone to be under one roof.
“It’s a good functional space,” Bedenbaugh said.