Federal funding could breathe new life into Charlie’s Place

Federal funding could breathe new life into Charlie’s Place

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A once vibrant part of the community is long overdue for revitalization.

Soon, it could finally get the attention it deserves.

Charlie's Place on Carver Street is expected to receive funding from the Community Development Block Grant. The people who live in the neighborhood said it's been a long time coming to bring back what Charlie's Place once was.

"You had black folk, white folk, everyone coming together because they loved music. You had the best entertainers in the world playing over there. You had Billie Holiday, you had Little Richard who used to live over there," said Herbert Riley, CEO for the Carver Street Renaissance Group.

Riley said things changed over time, and the disrepair of what's left of the buildings is what people see now.

According to Riley, he approached the city of Myrtle Beach nearly five years ago and asked the city council to consider funding options to help restore Charlie's Place.

Now, Charlie's Place is expected to receive $343,000 in federal funding from the Horry County Community Development Block Grant, according to Cooking Goings, director of the Myrtle Beach Neighborhood Services Department.

The money will help renovate all of Charlie's Place. Hopes are to start construction by the end of the summer.

Goings said Horry County allocates $479,486 to the city of Myrtle Beach and the majority of the funding is going toward Charlie's Place. The remaining $136,00 will go toward housing rehabilitation and acquisition.

"The history of this place is like a magnet; anybody who hears it wants to hear more," Riley said. "If we can capitalize on that and draw some of the 18 million tourists that come to Myrtle Beach every year over here, then we use it as a springboard to bring life and vitality back to the streets, economic vitality."

Riley said Charlie's Place used to be a vibrant gem to the community.

"I could be walking down the street and run into Percy Sledge or run into the real Blues Brothers, Sam and Dave or Billy Stewart," Riley said. "They all used to hang here."

Riley believes Charlie's Place needs to be remembered. He said everyone around the community remembers the two who created it in 1937 - Charlie and his wife Sarah Fitzgerald.

Decades later, they want to bring back the entertainment and culinary culture. The vision is to renovate the main building, bring back the motel, bring in small business owners and create a museum to remember what Charlie's Place meant to this area. The goal is to continue to host yearly jazz festivals in the green space as well.

"The two jazz festivals had outstanding success. Money was made and that's where we want to go, plus as a culture we want to pass on to the children," Riley said.

It will take a lot of money to make it happen.

"If we get economic development over here, it helps everybody," Riley said. "It's not just about Charlie's Place. Charlie's Place is the stimulus, but this is about Carver Street. We want Carver Street to be jumping again. It was the hippest street in town. We want it to be the hippest town again."

Goings said upon receipt of the funding, as well as the bid process and selection of a contractor, the renovations will begin.

A series of public meetings will be held before the city can move forward with the renovations. The first public meeting is Monday, June 4, at 4 p.m. at Myrtle Beach City Hall.

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