ULI group makes recommendations to give downtown a facelift - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

ULI group makes recommendations to give certain downtown areas a facelift

Yvette Jefferson, Exec. Director, Children's Museum of South Carolina Yvette Jefferson, Exec. Director, Children's Museum of South Carolina
David Sebok, Exec. Director, Downtown Redevelopment Corporation David Sebok, Exec. Director, Downtown Redevelopment Corporation
Urban Land Institute Panel Urban Land Institute Panel
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- The area between the Old Pavilion Park and Family Kingdom is underdeveloped and undervalued right now. The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation brought in a new pair eyes to help them give this area a new look. If you drive down Ocean Boulevard, you certainly can see vacant buildings and lots, but imagine seeing an entertainment district with an amphitheater with a concert venue and a residential area.All these things were mentioned as part of recommendations to revitalize an area that the DRC wants to give a fresh makeover.

No distinct downtown brand, a lack of residential presence, the perception of safety - these are all things the Urban Land Institute said were weaknesses of the area that needs a facelift, from 1st Avenue North and 7th Avenue North, between Ocean Blvd. and Kings Highway. 

"This is an area that has opportunity; it has problems, but by the same token if we work together, we have a clear vision, together we can find some tools, make a few things happen, take baby steps in some case, and change the area - change takes time," said David Sebok, Executive Director of the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation.

After touring the 18 blocks considered to be the South Mixed Use Area, Wednesday the ULI presented its recommendations Thursday before city leaders, property owners, developers, and business owners. 

"We were very pleased to hear some things that re-affirm some of the directions we have been going, some things we have been hearing, so it's nice to have fresh eyes, fresh ears," Sebok said.

A few recommendation brought forth by the panel included increased code enforcement, creating a visible police presence to enhance public safety, and limited street closings to serve for street fairs and festivals.

Sebok added, "You need the vision, you need the buy-in and, you need the partnerships public and private - willing seller, willing buyer, willing developer, willing public entity to make it happen, fill the gap, if you will."

Other recommendations from the panel included a joint venture with property landowners and developers Burroughs and Chapin to create a mixed use venue - for example, a concert venue and/or amphitheater, that would be part of an entertainment district.

The Children's Museum was included to have a new location, an idea that was proposed as part of developing a complimentary family residential district to be south adjacent to Family Kingdom. It would also include a public park. It's an idea the museum's Executive director, Yvette Jefferson, was surprised to hear about. 

"We were very happy to see we were part of the plans," explained Jefferson. "When we interviewed, we did not know if there were other interested parties but we were very happy to see the museum was included." 

The Children's Museum of South Carolina has been at the North Oak Street location for 18 years. The panel said having the park and museum part of the residential area would create an area that caters to local residents first. Other recommendations included: a strategic realignment of street grid to enhance pedestrian experience, an extension of the Boardwalk to connect to the Withers Swash Walk, limiting closing streets to serve street fairs and festivals, and offering financial incentives for property owners to restore or maintain property. 

The panel said they could not see a brand for downtown, and suggested "South Carolina's City on the Beach."

Sebok said the next step for the DRC is to look more in detail at the final report that will come from Urban Land Institute in January.  The will make a decisions on what ideas they will bring to city leaders.

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