Hard Rock Fire Pic

Crews responded to a fire at the site of the former Hard Rock Park Sunday night.

The first phase of redeveloping the former Hard Rock Park site will focus on the old mall building.

The property owner plans to go before the Horry County Planning Commission Nov. 7 to make the case for rezoning about 26 acres to allow for more potential uses, including retail and storage, according to public records.

“I think planning will be receptive to it,” said John Rhodes, the former Myrtle Beach mayor who is part of FTPP Bishop Parkway LLC, the group that owns the 131-acre park. “They’re tired of looking at something that’s not producing the tax dollars or creating jobs. … You just want to have some options.”

Documents filed with Horry County Planning and Zoning indicate that if the amendment is approved by county council (the planning commission makes a recommendation to the council) the property could be used for dozens of businesses, including an RV park, commercial indoor recreation, or a convenience store.

Under the existing zoning, the property owner is limited to theme park-related operations, said David Schwerd, the county’s director of planning and zoning.

“The proposed amendment would allow the portion of the property containing the old mall structure to be redeveloped into one of the many proposed uses listed in the attached [documents],” he said via email.

The rezoning would impact the building known as Mall 3 and the grounds around it, said Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers, the firm working on the project.

“There have been a number of people interested in retrofitting that building for other uses,” he said. “And those other uses were not contemplated when the original [zoning] for the theme park was done. So all we’re doing is adding other uses to that area so that it will be a more viable sale for the owner.”

When asked what the old mall could become, Rhodes said he’s seen an interest in warehouse space.

“There is a demand that’s there for dry storage portions of 25,000 and 30,000 square feet,” he said. “That’s just not available. You’ve got a lot of the 200-square-foot facilities and 300-square-foot facilities and climate controlled [space], but you don’t have any really warehouse storage space that’s available. With the construction that’s going on and houses being built, we think that it’s a possibility that it could be a storage area maybe for the refrigerators and washers and dryers that’s going to these new homes.” 

Recently, Rhodes said he’s allowed local police and fire departments to use the parking lot for training.

“We’ve been very cooperative in working with them,” he said, calling that arrangement a “community service deal.”

As for the more than 100 acres that make up the main theme park property, redeveloping that land would require a separate rezoning. 

“There are some people looking at that,” Wooten said. “I’m going to have to come back and go through the full [rezoning] process as well if any of those people come to fruition.”

Speculation has been building about what would happen to the property since it was sold in December.

Hard Rock Park opened in 2008 with rock ’n’ roll-themed rides such as the Led Zeppelin roller coaster. But the attraction struggled to draw visitors and by September of that year the park had filed for bankruptcy.
 
Another company, FPI MB Entertainment LLC, bought the park out of bankruptcy for $25 million and rebranded it as Freestyle Music Park.
 
Freestyle stayed open for just one season. It also closed. The park has remain shuttered and the rides were dismantled and sold.
 
Three years ago, Rhodes courted Chinese investors with the hope of building a cultural center on the property, but those plans never materialized.
 
The land sits beside George Bishop Parkway near the former Waccamaw Pottery shopping center.  
 
Horry County Government records indicate a $20 million mortgage on the property was satisfied on Dec. 27. The borrower had been FPI US LLC, the same company that bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2011. The lender was Ysanne Trading Limited, a company based in the country of Cyprus.
The property was then purchased on Dec. 28 by FTPP Bishop Parkway LLC for $3,545,000, records show. 

Both Wooten and Rhodes declined to say what the remainder of the old theme park might become.

“We’re not in a rush,” Rhodes said. “The main thing was to get it cleaned up where it would look decent and presentable.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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