Wilmington, Columbia, Raleigh leaders add insight to Myrtle Beach downtown revitalization

Myrtle Beach leaders continue looking at downtown redevelopment

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach’s downtown could soon look and feel more like Wilmington, Columbia or Raleigh.

Leaders who helped to revamp the downtown areas of those cities came to Myrtle Beach on Wednesday. During a panel with the Myrtle Beach Downtown Development Office, they discussed what went right and wrong for them and how to move forward with development in the Grand Strand.

The talked about issues they faced such as dealing with homelessness, financial issues and getting members of the public on board with revitalization plans.

Matt Kennell, the president and CEO of City Center Partnership for the City of Columbia, said that it’s a long process and acknowledged that it is part of redevelopment.

“It did take a while to get going. I think originally there was a perception problem, maybe not reality,” Kennell said.

Kennell added that it’s important for cities who are looking to revitalize their downtown’s to embrace what they already have.

“In recent times we’ve started appreciating the walkability of the area, the physical environment,” Kennell said.

Lauren Clever,the director of the Downtown Development Office, said she wants to make sure businesses and property owners are on board with revitalization.

“We want them to be a part of this. This is about the community and them being heard and what they want. It’s their money, how do we use it?” Clever said.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said that learning from other cities is important, but also said, we need to focus on what’s best for Myrtle Beach and what fits our own needs.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can use the expertise of other municipalities that have gone through revitalization efforts and learn from their best practices and also their mistakes. We don’t want to be a copy cat, we don’t want to take everything that they did and say, ‘OK it’s a cookie-cutter.’ That’s what will work here, we have to develop what works for us, and the only way to do that and the only way to succeed, is to do that with the property owners and the business owners," Bethune said.

In May, the city hopes to introduce a pilot version of the program Clean and Safe which helps provide extra help from a third party to keep recently revitalized areas clean on top of helping visitors.

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