Conway Chamber of Commerce’s director of economic development Devin Parks expects Conway residents will have a lot to celebrate when the new Celebration Square opens at the intersection of U.S. 501 and Mill Pond Road, possibly as early as May.
The project, going up now, represents an anticipated investment of $5 million and will include a new McAlister’s Deli, the fourth in Horry County, and the first Eugenia’s Steakhouse that’s not a part of any chain.
Parks told Conway City Council last week that Eugenia’s will offer fine dining in a facility with somewhere around 300 seats. He said they have also learned recently that there will be a full-service breakfast in the new restaurant.
The franchisee for McAlister’s, Keith Benton, owns the property where the two new restaurants will be located. Horry County already has McAlister’s restaurants in North Myrtle Beach and Surfside, at Coastal Grande Mall and in the new Teal Towne shopping center on S.C. 544 near Coastal Carolina University.
The restaurant is famous for its sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts and specializes in sweet tea and spuds stuffed with everything from grilled chicken, to veggies, roast beef and more. It’s most noted creation is its 13-layer club sandwich.
The project was first announced in March of 2019, but it was held up by the COVID-19 pandemic. While McAlister’s is hoping to open sometime around May, Eugenia’s won’t be up and running until later. A target opening date has not been set for the steakhouse.
Conway Medical Center headed to Downtown Conway?
Celebration Square is only one of the projects headed to Conway that has Parks excited.
A second, a medical building planned by Conway Medical Center in its very early stages, could be similar to its S.C. 707 office in Socastee.
Conway’s building will possibly be located on Fourth Avenue, somewhere near the U.S. 378/U.S. 701 intersection, possibly in the area of the old Sav-Way.
Although this project is only a vision at this time, Parks said, “There definitely a need for it and that would meet that need,” he said.
Conway spokesperson June Wood said the hospital hasn’t submitted anything to the city, but it is a priority for City Administrator Adam Emrick, and Monday’s presentation was the first they’ve heard about a Conway satellite office from the chamber of commerce.
She points to the old Maxway strip shopping center as a nice location for a medical building.
“At this point a hospital is our goal…We have to do something for our citizens because we found out that roads close, bridges close in natural disasters and our citizens need a way to have 24-hour care…,” Wood said.
Conway Medical Center spokesperson Allyson Floyd confirms that the hospital has been in discussions with the City of Conway about a medical building, but says discussions are in the very early stages.
She points out that CMC has expanded into Marion and is building now on S.C. 90, but that office is pretty far out of Conway.
The Marion facility offers primary care and pediatrics; the S.C. 90 office will be a regular doctor’s office; and Socastee’s 36,000-square-foot building is used for pediatrics, primary care and a rotation of specialists. They are working now on a surgery unit there, according to Floyd.
“We’ve been growing, which is great,” Floyd said.
Still more new projects
Another project headed to Conway is Firehouse Subs, planned for an outpost at the Coastal Centre.
Parks also said there are plans to fill the empty building on Third Avenue beside Norman’s Cleaners, but he isn’t in a position yet to say who is interested in that building.
Parks told council Monday night that to say the past year has been challenging for economic developers is an understatement, and no one has any idea about how much things will change in the next year, but many think things will become better in the next year.
He said when things do improve Conway will be in a good position to attract some quality businesses due to its large increase in population over recent years.
He said Conway passed the 25,000 population level in 2020, a target number that will interest large big box businesses. Conway’s population now is counted at more than 27,000.
He said Carolina Forest’s population hit 21,000 in 2010 and now is counted at more than 42,000.
“Carolina Forest is a glimpse into Conway’s future,” he said.
He also pointed to U.S. 501 and Carolina Forest Boulevard as the roads with the most traffic in the county and said the 501 bridge over the Waccamaw River has the highest daily traffic count when it comes to roads over bodies of water in Horry County.
“We are in a position to recruit national retailers that we weren’t five years ago,” he said, but added that there is still a lot of uncertainty in the business community and he thinks it will be years before they’ll know how much difference the COVID-19 slowdown has made.
To reach its potential he says Conway must have a bypass. Plans for that road were reviewed and promoted by Conway developer Jimmy Jordan more than a year ago, but were delayed by current conditions. Parks wants Conway to get back to moving toward that project.
Jordan chaired a bypass committee organized by the Conway Chamber of Commerce. The committee consisted of local leaders who supported the project, including Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo, Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught, Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle and Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy.
The bypass would essentially be an extension of the Conway perimeter road that’s part of the county’s RIDE III road construction program. It would run from U.S. 701 South across the river and join S.C. 544 near the Bojangles’ restaurant.
Supporters contend the project would improve traffic congestion on U.S. 501 and provide an elevated thoroughfare in case an extreme flood overtakes 501 near the river. State and federal officials built emergency dams along 501 in 2018 to keep floodwater off the highway. Flooding also closed other major routes, including S.C. 9, S.C. 905 and S.C. 22.