Myrtle Beach's history of master planning - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Myrtle Beach's history of master planning

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Is Myrtle Beach ready to become the next Venice, Italy? Perhaps another San Antonio River Walk. These are just a couple of the "pie in the sky" ideas the city has considered when planning for the future.

When you take a stroll along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, it looks pretty much like any beach resort community with high rise hotels, lots of touristy shops, and restaurants. But what has gone on behind the scenes in this community, the plans drawn up and the plans thrown out, might surprise you.

One of those plans wanted to turn Myrtle Beach into the B-film capital of the east. Film maker Earl Owensby shot a couple movies here in the early 1980's and says he fell in love!

Plans were drawn up for a massive movie studio complex, and the Governor even showed up for a special groundbreaking. The project died a short time later.

"Immediately announces he's gonna open studios here, the governor was here and everything and it never happened. There were plans that even our Governor would endorse and actually show up for groundbreakings that never happened. Amusement parks to movie studios to malls and even the redevelopment of the Myrtle Beach pavilion area," said Rik Dickinson, Encore Video Productions.

"What is it about Myrtle Beach that brings in these kinds of hopes and dreams only to watch them fall apart?" WMBF News Anchor David Klugh asked.

Dickinson answered, "Those kinda schemes seem to come and go a lot here more than other places. And it's because the impression is you can come in here and play a game and get away with it. We had one developer come in with drawings and meetings, and pretty much the fella didn't even have an office. And that never happened. So, was that a scam? Pretty much."

Beyond the less than honorable approaches, were the city's own hopes for a more congruent tourist hub. The head of city planning, Jack Walker, has a room filled with the good, the bad, and the preposterous when it comes to city master plans. The common theme? Water!

One of those plans involved flooding hundreds of acres of land right here at the entrance to Myrtle Beach where Highway 501 meets Highway 17. Parking, shopping, hotels and housing, surrounded by lakes. A hundred million dollar investment that fizzled because is violated just about every environmental law in existence.

It was one of many ideas that truly would have changed the look and feel of the city forever.

Mr. Walker stated, "We've done this many times since the 70's. We've actually had probably a dozen downtown plans that have been done."

And they vary wildly from one to the next. One plan, endorsed by the city but shot down when the price tag sunk in, would create a Venetian style canal district from one end of the tourist corridor to the other.

The property tax benefits would have been astronomical given every property would have been considered "waterfront."

"There are many times when the plan didn't get implemented fully, but it achieved a significant kind of catalyst effect, increasing momentum going in the direction we wanted it to go," Mr. Walker added.

Case in point: Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach. Today the goals have changed. Mixed-use is the mantra for all future development here: locals' housing, tourists' rooms and retail together.

"A truly sustainable community mixes all these uses together. And so in the last ten years we have begun to see a new skill set develop within the development community where they can actually create housing and shops and employment opportunities in the same master plan," Walker said.

To accomplish that, this city wants to bulldoze the need for so much parking. The future for Myrtle Beach includes a way for visitors to park their car and never have to return to it until they leave. No more sectors separating hotels, housing and retail. A lofty plan! But then we've become accustomed to that here, haven't we?

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