HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Construction on the Carolina Forest Boulevard widening project is well underway, but there’s a particular area along the road near a neighborhood that will soon welcome a new strip mall.
Forest Marketplace will be located along Carolina Forest Boulevard in front of the Haven Pointe Apartment complex and Summerlyn neighborhood, and across from the Carolina Forest Library. The property is nearly three acres and has left many residents with mixed reactions.
Robbie Leopard with Match Property Managers said the land was purchased a while ago and has always been zoned for commercial use. Developers have been working for a few years to bring this project to life.
Leopard said crews are planning to break ground on Forest Marketplace in early November. They expect to finish the work sometime between July and August of 2020.
As of right now, Leopard confirms there will be a Shell gas station and a total of nine available units that are roughly 1,400 square feet each. He notes the United States Environmental Protection Agency has already approved the gas station to be built in the space.
Leopard said he understands the frustration expressed by some residents, but added that Match Property Managers is doing the best it can to work with the community. Employees are currently polling to vet what kind of businesses will fill up those remaining storefronts. Those ideas range from a local diner to a business geared toward children.
People who live in Summerlyn have mixed reactions to the new strip mall. Some said they’ve had enough with construction and are concerned about traffic, infrastructure and safety.
“We have to share the same entrance into Summerlyn. There’s a truck entrance on the east side to come into Summerlyn and then there’s the main entrance here, which is both going to be utilized by people living in 304 apartment units. Do the math; it’s going to be a traffic congestion just to get into Summerlyn,” said resident Barbara Runion.
Others don’t believe the area is equipped to handle a strip mall.
“There’s over 40,000 people living in Carolina Forest. We don’t want to be exposed to this element. Put it on the other ends of Carolina Forest Boulevard where you have access on major arteries in and out instead of not only in the middle of a residential community," Runion said. "I’ve lost count of how many schools there are along this six-mile strip, but there are numerous schools, a lot of children. It’s just not a good location.”
Leopard said he understands safety is a big concern for residents. He noted the convenient store will not be 24 hours and they plan to hire a security company to patrol the property at all times.
As far as traffic goes, Leopard said there are plans to put in traffic signals at the intersection.
Although some residents said they aren’t looking forward to the increased traffic, they do hope to see some businesses that will benefit the community.
“It’s going to grow, there’s no way around that because it was started out to eventually reach 50,000 homes and we aren’t there yet. But I would just like it to keep its charm because I think Carolina Forest is a perfect place to live because you can get anywhere on the Grand Strand easily from here. Just keep the integrity of it,” said resident Veenan Schmidt.
Representatives with Match Property Managers said they aren’t planning to bring just any business to the area and are open to ideas and encourage feedback from the community.
They said to check back with their website for further information and applications.