It’s one of the main corridors ferrying cars into Aiken’s historic district and downtown, as well as serving as a direct route to North Augusta and Augusta.
But in recent years, Richland Avenue West through the Kalmia Hill community has become distressed in other areas. Shuttered businesses and vacant lots filled with weeds have become increasingly common.
Aiken leaders want to change that.
During a work session Monday, Aiken City Council members asked the planning department look into ways to spruce up the heavily traveled road. Ideas suggested included increased landscaping, a buffered median, more sidewalks and street lighting.
The issue arose at the request of Councilman Dick Dewar, who said he’s been contacted by several businesses along Richland Avenue West. They all have the same message.
Although the work session agenda identified all of Richland Avenue between Vaucluse Road and Gregg Avenue, Dewar said he was primarily concerned with the stretch lined with businesses.
Dewar said about a dozen businesses have signed onto a petition asking for greater attention to Richland Avenue West. In 2015, the section between Gregg Avenue and Vaucluse Road averaged 12,500 vehicles per day, according to the most recent S.C. Department of Transportation figures.
“It is a vital part of the community. They (businesses) just feel left out,” Dewar said. “We ought to take a look at what we can do.”
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon agreed.
“It is an issue. I’ve been approached by some of the property owners, as well,” Osbon said. “It’s an important entryway into our (city).”
Although there are several vacant businesses along Richland Avenue West, there have been some signs of rejuvenation in the private sector.
Sonic Drive-In in the 1200 block of Richland Avenue West is currently in the process of remodeling. The refurbished business will feature a double drive-thru and is scheduled to reopen in May, according to company officials.
Cook Out still has plans to build a fast-food restaurant in the Kalmia Hill area, as well. It submitted plans in 2015 and now has an approved site plan, said Aiken Planning Director Ryan Bland.
The restaurant will be built in the 1800 block of Richland Avenue West on the site of the old McDonald’s, next door to Knight’s Inn, Bland said.
Cook Out-Aiken Inc. closed on the property Oct. 26, 2016, paying $175,000 for the parcel, according to Aiken County property records.
A-Town Wings opened along Richland Avenue West in late 2016. Other businesses receiving upgrades in recent years include CVS, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Workout Anytime.
Richland Avenue West also borders the old Aiken Hospital and County building. Aiken County is currently trying to find a buyer for the properties.