Although the City of Conway closed on the purchase of 25,000-square-feet of property in Downtown Conway June 27, it has only this week confirmed the purchased.
Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy said Monday that Conway paid the Burroughs Company $400,000 for the four parcels of property using money that was in its budget this past year set aside for downtown development.
“That is such a unique property and so central to downtown and the future expansion of the riverwalk, and all those things, that it just seemed to me that this was a great opportunity,” Blain-Bellamy said.
One of the parcels, that measures 10,000-square-feet beside the Ocean Fish Market, was on the way to becoming the site of a 39-unit apartment building in 2016 when the idea died along with developer Van Watts.
Since then the Mayor said at least one other person has spoken very seriously to city officials about the property, but talk about the property’s future slowed after Hurricane Florence.
“All of us believe that it’s just prime property that is going to make a big difference in Downtown Conway and its future development,” the Mayor said.
Blain-Bellamy said council thought that rather than allowing fate to determine what might be built there one day, its members decided to follow the pattern of some cities in and around South Carolina that are taking measures to aid development.
Some of them are allowing investors to lease property before they buy it, she said.
“I still think an apartment building would be one of the best uses of the property,” she said. “If we develop the downtown with people living there in a community that is walkable that has various amenities all around, that will spur some growth that will be really productive and complementary to what is going on downtown.”
She also mentioned the possibility of a multi-use project.
Possibilities might include a restaurant, brewery or inside, but open facility that might include a farmers’ market, restaurant delicacies and artisans’ creations.
There are a lot of things that would push Conway toward being a destination, she said.
“We just saw this opportunity to use our own vision and hope for that area. What I’m hearing is that we’re moving in the right direction,” Blain-Bellamy said.
She said there are many things that could fit well into that location.
“The Kingston Lake is something that we could pay more attention to,” she said.
As to the brewery idea, she said, there are many young adults, middle-age people, even mature people who, she believes, would like a safe, clean and inviting atmosphere where they could taste various forms of beer, adding that alcohol is a substance that’s always going to be around and many people enjoy it.
The other three parcels that the city bought are all together beside the Bonfire restaurant.
“As far as I know it’s never been developed, but it’s just ripe for it,” she said.
Owning these two areas along the water will allow the city to solicit investors and bargain with investors, she said.
She also believes $400,000 was an “excellent price” for the two properties.
“These are like some of the best parcels in all of Conway. We thought this was an extremely fair price,” she said.
She says people who are interested in the properties should speak with city administrator Adam Emrick.
“We’re just sitting and waiting for this to turn into something good,” she said.
In a prepared statement, Emrick said, “It is our belief that the added value these properties will add to our downtown will put us in a place to quickly recoup the cost of the purchase, while driving economic activity in these highly visible locations.”
The prepared statement also says that in 2015 and 2016, the City of Conway worked extensively with the Burroughs Company to help facilitate the development of several of its tracts of land in Downtown Conway and on the Riverfront. This agreement granted previously privately-owned space to the City, including parking, landscaping and access to the Riverfront and Kingston Lake. In 2016, the City completed a master plan to help tie the downtown to the Riverfront and incorporate those newly-acquired parcels, the statement says.
In 2016, the Burroughs Company donated property to the city in an agreement that called for the Company to give the City all of the parking area behind the Jerry Cox building and the parking next to Ocean Fish Market.
In addition, the parking areas around the Peanut Warehouse, the Lower Mill Warehouse and the Bonfire Taqueria restaurant also became city property.
According to Bill Graham, who was city administrator at that time, the property given to the city was to be used for parking as well as access to the Waccamaw River.
“The City of Conway is extremely pleased with this agreement which sets the stage for well planned and quality development of the Conway Riverfront,” Graham said at the time. “This riverfront development will be a tremendous boost to the economic development in our downtown area and the city as a whole. It will provide for commercial development which will be enjoyed by our entire community, as well as visitors to our city.”