CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - The city of Conway is making steps toward revitalizing the downtown area and its riverfront.
The city recently bought four properties totaling 25,000 square feet along the Waccamaw River in downtown Conway in hopes of sparking interest from new developers.
The properties include the 10,000 square foot lot next to Ocean Fish Market, as well as three lots, totaling 15,000 square feet, next to Bonfire - A Smokin’ Taqueria. The city of Conway purchased all four lots from the Burroughs Company for a total of $400,000 using money in its budget this past year set aside for downtown development.
Both areas were under water during the catastrophic flooding that Hurricane Florence left behind. City leaders said despite the history of flooding in the area, each property sits in the most visible areas in Conway and will provide a large economic impact once developed.
“We just see these as vital pieces of property that could have enormous economic impact on our community. We believe that by owning those properties, we’ll be in a much better position and have greater opportunities to help work with potential investors and come up with creative ways that we can work together to make the best uses of these properties,” said Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy.
It is the city’s hope that by purchasing the property, it can better market the land to private developers and invigorate the downtown and Riverfront area. Blain–Bellamy said she has a multi-use vision for the spaces including housing, restaurants, a hotel, shops and even a brewery.
"I can just see a number of restaurants with different cultural aspects, all kinds of amenities and shops and the kind of place where wherever your desire is for leisure and entertainment, you'll find it there,” said Blain-Bellamy.
She noted that people are drawn to “walk-able” communities these days.
"We believe there is great need for downtown apartments, that there are people who are just waiting for that type of opportunity, people are seeking walk-able communities where all the amenities are very nearby and we think there is a great calling for that sort of thing here,” said Blain-Bellamy.
Nearby businesses like the Trestle Bakery in downtown Conway said they’re all for the idea of bringing in more development to the downtown area.
"The more condos, the more places for people to live and being that you can walk around downtown and feel safe doing it. If you lived in a condo down there, you could come shop then come somewhere for dinner. I think it would bring more people or even more tourists to the Conway area,” said Trestle Bakery General Manager Terry Bedell said.
But some people are concerned about the impact the development would bring to the area known as a quiet and peaceful place to visit.
"I think it would make it noisier and you wouldn’t get a quiet day like this to come, it would draw more tourism and most of it’s at the beach,” said former Conway resident Gayle Overly.
As for building in a flood-prone area, Blain-Bellamy said it’s something city leaders are keeping a close eye on during the planning process.
“I’m personally a part of the governor’s floodwater commission, looking at everything we can do as a state, and communities too. We can’t impact whether or not the floods come, but we can mitigate what happens once it gets here. We’re also working with the Corps of Engineers, we’re working with the federal government, looking at water sheds that impact us from other areas and we’re working internally with the county what we can do. There’s opportunities in there and we’re going to make sure we take advantage of all of them,” said Blain- Bellamy.
Blain-Bellamy said future investors and developers shouldn’t worry about the future of the area. Adding, the issue of flooding should not interfere with the best use of the property.
"There’s a matter of building high enough with the kinds of material that won’t mold and have other kinds of impacts, and instead of just building, its building wisely,” said Blain-Bellamy. “I think the likelihood of another flooding event at some time is fairly real. It’s just the kind of thing you keep in perspective as you plan for the use.”
As of right now, there are no concrete plans set yet, but city leaders are actively seeking developers to find a project that best meets the city’s vision for revitalizing the downtown Conway area and its riverfront.
As part of the Comprehensive Plan Process, the city of Conway will be holding public input meetings to discuss the Future Land Use Map.
These meetings will be held on August 7 at 6 p.m. at Whittemore Middle at 1808 Rhue Street, and August 15 at 6 p.m. at the Conway Recreation Center located at 1515 Mill Pond Road.