Myrtle Beach’s Master Plan is the “blueprint”

A man crosses 7th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Janet Morgan/

The downtown master plan puzzle pieces are falling into place as city leaders call it the “blueprint for the future downtown revitalization.”

Mayor Brenda Bethune said those pieces are meant to move as the plan transforms and grows over time. Even as the city council adopted the plan, Bethune said there were meetings scheduled and calls coming in from investors interested in the city.

She said the public should be able to see changes in the downtown area within a few years, if not sooner.

The next steps include hiring an architect to render a vision for the library and theater; have the city council make a list of priorities balancing growth and residential concerns; and have discussions with private developers eyeing tax incentives that should spur growth.

The master plan covers much of the city’s commercial areas with drawings of cityscapes sprinkled around the 72-page report.

It has the city divided into separate areas that are targeted for growth and names are attached to the areas to help with branding.

There are three linear districts in a parallel stack with a smaller perpendicular Arts District as a bridge over the other three districts.

The Oceanfront District stretches on Ocean Boulevard from 16th Avenue North to 6th Avenue South. The Kings Highway District runs parallel to Oceanfront along with another parallel district of Historic Main Street. The Historic Main Street District includes all of Broadway Street and 3rd Avenue North up to Oak Street and 9th Avenue North.

The Arts District includes the Superblock.

Benchmark, a consulting firm based in North Carolina, developed the plan for the city in about six months. During the study period, numerous community meetings were held, interviews were conducted and objectives were categorized. The city agreed to pay Benchmark about $90,000 for the study.

The city has a collection of other studies involving revitalization paired with managing growth dating back to 1994, 1998 and 2001.

But this one, Benchmark officials said, is different because not only does it include a comprehensive plan, it comes at a prime time for investors.

There are numerous incentives to lure investors and builders to the area including the Bailey Bill, abandoned building tax credits, blighted building abatement, opportunity zones, historic tax credits, storefront renovation incentives, city-sponsored voucher credits to cover permit fees and the new workforce housing construction incentives.

As the plan was near completion, the city entered into a contract with Roger Lewis’ Columbia-based law firm of Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn to identify tax credit investors, negotiate terms with the investors and consult with the city staff on identifying historic buildings to help register the buildings with federal and state governments.

Lewis is one of the partners who purchased and remodeled the Waikiki Village Motel at 15th Avenue South and Ocean Boulevard. He said he used tax incentives to lower the cost associated with the renovations.

He had said the partners’ goal was to do one project a year for five years.

Lewis is originally from the Conway area.

Myrtle Beach has also contracted with Nexsen Pruett LLC to give advice and direction on opportunity zones and the investments it is promised to attract.

Opportunity zones are federally backed and targeted at underdeveloped communities. Myrtle Beach has a pair of opportunity zones including much of the downtown area.

In addition to the tax credits used to lure investors, Benchmark’s Dan Douglas said the city is in a prime spot to take the lead and relax some zoning regulations to make the city more welcoming to builders.

Buddy Styers, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Redevelopment Authority, has told the city council if they were looking for a model to redevelop downtown to look at the private-public partnership that has worked in transforming the former base into a shopping, dining and residential area.

There was a public sector investment of more than $100 million by the redevelopment authority.

Mark Kruea, the city’s spokesman, cited another example of the public sector leading the way in revitalization. He has said the city invested $7 million in the oceanfront boardwalk leading to compounding private construction along the path since 2010.

Mike Shelton, Myrtle Beach’s chief financial officer, has said if the city fulfills a wish list totaling $34 million in the next few years then citizens may be looking at a 2.3 mill increase in property taxes. A 2.3 mill increase is about $10 a year added to the tax bill of a home valued at $100,000.

The wish list includes renovations in the Superblock, buying the First Presbyterian Church and costs associated with renovating it to become a new city hall as well as building a new city library.

Benchmark’s Douglas said the city’s master plan targets the Superblock area for the site of privately owned apartments above public buildings such as a library and/or museum. In that situation, City Manager John Pedersen said, the city could sell the “air rights” above the public buildings to developers who may want office space or workforce housing.

In addition, the plan targets five avenues leading to the ocean. Douglas said the 2nd, 5th, 8th, 9th and 14th avenues north could be widened to include setbacks that would encourage walking, bike paths and limited vehicle traffic by reducing lane counts.

He said the city could entice developers to build lower closer to the ocean and higher leading toward Kings Highway so the ocean views could be enjoyed rows back from the traditional oceanfront towers.

The plan highlights five steps to kick start it:

* develop a capital improvement plan of action for the Arts District to ignite development.

* create an urban design manual establishing the city’s vision and a framework for future development.

* remove any regulatory and policy barriers for desirable businesses.

* improve public perception of the downtown with improvements in public safety, building conditions and bicycle/pedestrian safety.

* leverage public projects to attract people and private investment to increase the value of downtown.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at


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