Future plans for downtown districts discussed at DRC meeting

Future plans for downtown districts discussed at DRC meeting

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Wednesday was the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation's annual Board of Directors Strategic Planning Retreat, and many groups from within the city met DRC leaders to discuss the future for their respective districts that fall within the DRC and what is planned for 2016.

For the DRC itself, plans are moving forward on one project in the district while another is just starting to take shape.

It was reported in January that plans were to turn an oceanfront spot at Sixth Avenue North from a parking lot into a state-of-the-art hotel with a $50 million price tag.

DRC President said construction on that hotel, preliminarily referred to as "Bayshore Hotel," will begin in June.

It's one of two projects the DRC has in the works. The former Emerald Shores property, a blighted and vacant area that nearby businesses have eagerly awaited for its destruction and redevelopment, now has new ownership.

Sebok said the specifics for this reported $120 million project are in the very early planning stages. He wasn't able to elaborate on the plans, except for saying that it's going to be a unique, "big" idea.

With all the talk of blighted properties and the need for redevelopment, a big step was also announced. The city of Myrtle Beach can condemn properties, but doesn't usually front the funds to tear them down.

However, the DRC just received a $10 million line of credit it will hold between several local banks. When the city condemns a property, the group won't have to wait years for an owner to decide to tear it down and develop.

"And we've got a few juicy candidates in the downtown area, particularly in the south mixed use area," Sebok said. "Once they go through the legal process they can look at the DRC and say, 'Go tear it down', and we can basically write a check and get the properties torn down."

The DRC hopes to start with demolishing Emerald Shores, which the new property owner will repay when it develops the space.

The DRC can also put that money toward public improvements, acquiring property for public parks, public street improvements and parking garages.

Also on Wednesday, the Five Points Association spoke at length about its plans for 2016. The area has been the focus of a lot of talk recently in reference to crime and a need for safety.

Leaders said they're working to clean up the area and attract more business.

The Five Points Association is trying to attract members and soon, for the first time, new members won't have to be business owners whose addresses fall within the Five Points district. Anyone who wants to support the mission to make the area more vibrant can join.

With recent crime in the area occurring especially during the summer, the association is hosting a meeting with Myrtle Beach police and business owners.

The focus will be crime prevention and the steps needed to make businesses safe and improve the district so it will look more appealing during the peak summer season.

Additionally, the association is also planning to take advantage of a large event happening right next door - the Carolina Country Music Festival.

"We do not want to compete with CCMF because we want it to be here for years to come. So, what our goal is is to look at what their schedule is like, try to do something during the off hours of that festival so that we can continue the whole time there so it's constant music," explained John Krajc, president
of the Five Points Association.

The Oceanfront Merchants Association announced Wednesday that while it's St. Patrick's Day Festival is not happening in 2016, there will still be a smaller-scale celebration hitting downtown streets.

There was a lot of discussion on the reason behind the St Patrick's Day celebration being canceled. In its place, OMA's executive director, Peggy Iverson said there is going to be an event called Get your Green on, with live music and Irish specials.

Live bands will play downtown on the evenings of Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19. Participating merchants will let attendees know they will be offering specials by placing green balloons on their doors.

Money saved from not having the St. Patrick's Day Festival will be funneled into future OMA events, such as a volleyball and cornhole tournament set for the weekend of April 30.

Plus, there is the return of the Sun Fun Festival, which was recently announced for the first weekend of June.

While the last-minute cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day Festival may have some residents worried the same may happen with the Sun Fun Festival, leaders said the latter is full-steam ahead.

"I don't think there's going to be any problems moving forward with the festivities with Sun Fun because we've already gotten tremendous support and the community is just, they're very anxious to be part of it," Iverson said. "So, we're really excited about how this is bring the community together again."

Like the Five Points Association, OMA is also planning to host events and concerts in conjunction with CCMF to benefit locals and tourists who don't have tickets.

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