It’s Your Money: Myrtle Beach continues spending to study downtown

Updated: Feb. 18, 2020 at 6:29 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - It’s been almost a year since Myrtle Beach leaders approved a master plan for redeveloping downtown, but the city is continuing to spend money on a study before making any major changes to the area.

The city is paying DDC Engineers Inc. to complete an infrastructure study of the downtown area.

“With the Arts and Innovation District, this new downtown master plan, we’re looking at situating a number of new buildings in this area and along with that you’ll need to provide water and sewer, electrical service, new roads, new parks, irrigation and stormwater, and you need to make sure all of those things underground are ready when you put the building on top of the ground,” said city spokesperson Mark Kruea.

The entire study is expected to cost $132,000. The city has already paid the company around $24,000 since August, according to the city’s check register.

“The infrastructure evaluation and planning effort aims to consider the existing conditions, projected redevelopment needs of the area based upon build-out of the Downtown Master Plan, and coordination with the design and construction of Horry County and SCDOT’s Ride III Hwy 501 realignment project,” said Janet Curry, with the city’s public works department.

DDC’s study will evaluate the best way to proceed with above-ground and underground infrastructure, like utilities, electricity and roads.

”The recommended road map is likely to include phased underground utility upgrades/replacements to service increased demands on our water distribution, sanitary sewer collection, and stormwater collection systems, establishment of an underground corridor to serve overhead to underground conversion within the area, and above ground streetscape improvements that seek to serve the projected higher volumes of motorist, bike, and pedestrians utilizing the shared space,” Curry said.

The initial agreement said the area is lacking stormwater management systems. DCC called the assignment challenging and called the city’s current stormwater management, “marginal at best.”

Water supply will need to upgraded and overhead utilities need to be moved below ground.

DDC president Mike Wooten said his company would help the city with implementation of the study.

“It really looks ahead to make sure we aren’t creating problems down the road,” Kruea said.

The city paid the business, Benchmark, around $90,000, to create the Master Plan, which it completed in Spring 2019. The plan highlighted next steps for the city to take including removing policy barriers, improve public perception, and developing a plan of action for the Arts District.

When the city approved the plan, WMBF reported the city did not have any concrete plans on how to fund the projects.

At the time, MyHorryNews reported the city’s entire wish list would cost $34 million. Myrtle Beach’s chief financial officer told the paper if the city fulfilled everything, residents could have to pay 2.3 mils more in property taxes to fund.

City spending is also leading to outside investments within the city. The city estimated between March and July 2019, $140 million in private investment was made in the downtown area, according to previous WMBF reporting.

Currently, the city is in Phase II of the plan. Kruea said renovations should begin soon for some downtown buildings.

“We don’t yet have an order of construction, we don’t yet know which buildings are going to go in when but we do know that the 501 realignment is we need to be able to coordinate with the DOT (Department of Transportation) to make sure the 501 realignment fits in with all the other plans we have in the area,” Kruea said.

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