Redevelopment used as another strategy to reduce crime in downtown Myrtle Beach

Redevelopment used as another strategy to reduce crime in downtown Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach is taking steps to reduce crime along Ocean Boulevard after several recent shootings by putting up barricades along sidewalks and adding more lighting, but the city has been trying to reduce crime for much longer using another method - redevelopment.

The Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation has been working since the early 2000s to clean up what's known as the South Mixed Use area, between Eighth Avenue North and about First Avenue North.

"South Mixed Use was just always on the fringes," MBDRC Executive Director David Sebok said. "It was between the Pavilion amusement park and the Family Kingdom amusement park. And so it's sort of a no man's land. It was just neglected more than other areas."

Sebok said before the recession, some redevelopment had started to take hold and now that's coming back again with the demolition of blighted properties and the construction of a new hotel near Sixth Avenue North.

"That will be and already has been a catalyst to cleaning up that particular block," he said. "We hope that some of the adjacent properties continue to renovate or improve and raise the quality of their goods and services, which gets to the family-friendly environment."

Sebok said that area sees some challenges still, such as inflated land prices, high construction costs and limitations on the value of services.

"You can only rent a hotel room for so much. You can only charge so much for a meal in a restaurant. You can only rent a beach house or an apartment building for X," Sebok said. "There's a market drive revenue side to that and there's a gap when you combine all three of those things. The revenue side has not kept pace with land values and especially construction costs."

Sebok said that's where the city and the DRC come in, by offering incentives or the option to increase density to create a bigger return on investment.

"In the big scheme of things, redevelopment will contribute toward improving the quality of accommodations, improving the quality of businesses in and around the downtown area and that attracts more family-friendly people," he said.

ART Burger and Sushi Bar serves as an example of redevelopment in downtown Myrtle Beach.

"When we made our commitment a few years ago to help revitalize downtown, we did it with the hope that others would follow in our footsteps and help make downtown a better place to be," said Becky Billingsley, media manager at Bondfire Restaurant Group.

Redevelopment isn't without its challenges, such as a video of a shooting in the early hours of June 18 going viral.

"Of course we have worries, but it hasn't dissuaded us from our goal and we just have to look forward and not back," Billingsley said.

She said she knows redevelopment will reduce crime.

"We know it because there are a lot of good people behind this effort," she said. "We're not the only ones and as long as we work together to make sure there are no closed businesses and that new businesses come in, that's what it's going to take."

Sebok said videos like the one that went viral could dissuade investors.

"Investors, guess what, they have choices too," Sebok said. "Our job is to convince them that the city and the good property owners are making changes to improve the environment and it's a good place to invest."

Sebok said there's no specific timeline on revitalization of the South Mixed Use area, but it's moving along.

"Just do the best you can with the resources you have and at some point you reach what we call a critical mass and it will start to flip and the private sector will actually take over because it's a good place to invest," he said.

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