Developer discusses proposal for preserving and repurposing the old Aiken County Hospital

February 7, 2018

A Georgia-based real estate developer expressed optimism Sunday that he would be able to gain support from local elected government officials for his plan to preserve and repurpose the old Aiken County Hospital building on Richland Avenue West.

Bryan Haltermann of Haltermann Partners, Inc., in Augusta has been reaching out to members of Aiken County Council to discuss his idea.

“I have talked to almost all of them, and I have been very pleased with the conversations,” Haltermann said. “Most were either supportive or open-minded about my proposal. Andrew Siders has agreed to champion the preservation of this building.”

A four-story Colonial Revival structure designed by a noted 20th century Augusta architect, Willis Irving, the old Aiken County Hospital opened in 1936 on the site of the old Aiken Hospital.

It served as a health care facility until the mid-1970s.

Then the big brick building became part of the Aiken County Government Complex.

The several buildings in the Complex haven’t been occupied since the $35.7-million Aiken County Government Center opened in 2014 on University Parkway.

Haltermann wants to acquire the former Government Complex from the county. He said he has made one offer for the property where the old Aiken County Hospital is located and another offer for the land that is the site of a structure commonly known as the old Aiken County Council Building.

Morgan Street separates the two parcels.

The former Aiken County Hospital “is about 60,000 square feet, and I want to redevelop it into 60 loft-style apartments,” Haltermann said. “It’s a great old building, and there are tax credits associated with redeveloping properties like this. My business is to use those incentives to give new life to old buildings that are empty. I am very involved in the historic preservation communities in Augusta and Georgia, and I have been for 40 years.”

Haltermann added that he has been involved in repurposing “probably 20-plus historic buildings on Broad Street” in Augusta.

In addition, if Haltermann can close a deal with Aiken County, he would like to then sell a strip of land on the northern edge of the old Aiken County Hospital property to the Aiken Corporation, which works to improve the quality of life in the City of Aiken and to expand the City’s economic base.

“I have been talking to them,” Haltermann said.

The Aiken Corporation is interested in that land for the development of housing, “but it’s still in the study stage,” said the firm’s vice chairman, Pat Cunning, on Sunday.

Cunning also is the chairman of the Aiken Corporation’s Housing Committee.

“I think we could build some type of single-family homes there,” he said. “They probably would be smaller houses, maybe in the $120,000 to $150,000 range per unit.”

Haltermann isn’t sure what he would do with the old County Council building and the other structures in the former Government Complex.

“I don’t have any definite plans,” he said.

Last week, County Administrator Clay Killian told the Aiken Standard in an email that County Council was “considering several options” for the old Government Complex. They include tearing down its buildings.

Killian also wrote that a request for proposals to demolish them would be going out soon.

“That will give us an idea of the cost to remove the structures, and then Council can determine the best course of action,” Killian’s email stated.

In addition to discussing his proposal with County Council members and Killian, Haltermann has been talking to Historic Aiken Foundation President Charlotte Wiedenman and other members of Aiken’s preservation community.

He and some of those local preservation community members will be participating in a public rally to save the old Aiken County Hospital on Saturday at 3 p.m. in front of the building.

“I assume that I will be introduced and I will describe the scope of the project that I am proposing,” Haltermann said.

Siders, who is County Council’s vice chairman, also will be there and is scheduled to speak.

“I think it (the old Aiken County Hospital) is an important piece of Aiken history that needs to be preserved, and if it can be done with private funds, I think we should do everything we can to help,” Siders said. “I am kind of the Council person who is leading the charge for renovation. I haven’t seen his (Haltermann’s) whole plan yet, but he’s been to my office twice to discuss it. He wants to do it with a lot of the federal tax credits that are available and he claims he can make the numbers work, which is exciting. I think maybe if we can start with a project like this and it’s successful, we can get a lot of momentum to preserve and reuse some of these other old buildings that we have that are historic.”

There is a Revive Historic Aiken Hospital page on Facebook. Posts on it are encouraging people to contact County Council members to urge them to preserve the building and to sign a petition at www.change.org to refurbish the structure and to improve the Richland Avenue West corridor in general.

According to a post on the Aiken SC Views and News Public Group page on Facebook, several members of the local preservation community plan to speak during the public comment portion of County Council’s 7 p.m. meeting in Council Chambers at the Aiken County Government Center on Tuesday.