SURFSIDE BEACH — It’s about time.
That sentiment is felt heavily in the small seaside community of Surfside Beach, where a groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the start of a new pier being built over four years after Hurricane Matthew ravaged the current one.
“This is a monumental day for us,” Mayor Bob Hellyer said during the event held Monday along the oceanfront, shortly before an excavator chipped away at the remnants of the present structure amid the sound of crushing waves.
The new, sturdier concrete pier will have three buildings (as opposed to two on the prior pier) and a wooden deck.
It will be 10 feet higher than the previous structure and built to be more hurricane-resistant.
The town council recently approved a new contract for the pier restaurant, Surf Diner, after a lengthy negotiating process with Atlantic Restaurant Group.
Surfside officials previously announced that the ice cream and bait and tackle shop that were housed in the other building on the pier permanently closed.
Surfside Pier, Inc., which was comprised of a group of businessmen, first built a pier in Surfside Beach in the 1950s.
John Monroe Johnson Holliday and his brother Joseph were stockholders and became owners of the pier in 1953.
John Monroe Johnson Holliday became the pier’s sole owner in 1988 and eventually sold it to Pier Properties, Inc. (owned by the Scalise family) on May 25, 2000.
Pier Properties, Inc. remodeled the pier and organized a reopening ceremony that was held on April 21, 2001.
The town later purchased the pier in 2008.
At Monday’s ceremony, town leaders thanked prior members of council for their involvement in making the new pier a reality as well as state and federal legislators for their work helping secure federal money for the project.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to grant the town more than $9 million for the pier construction.
“I think this pier is the symbol of Surfside Beach [and] what it stands for,” said S.C. Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach. “It is the family beach. People come to this beach for that pier.”
This isn’t the first time the pier is being rebuilt.
In 1954, Hurricane Hazel destroyed the pier. Decades later in 1989, Hurricane Hugo did the same.
A few years later in 1993, damage from a nor’easter removed the end of the pier, and in 1996, the end of the pier was damaged again because of Hurricane Fran.
In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew’s impacts resulted in the pier losing over half its length with debris strewn from Ocean Lakes Family Campground to Garden City Beach.
Surfside Beach resident Joe Simpson remembers the end of the pier being taken out multiple times in the decades his family’s had property on the Grand Strand.
The Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War recalled amusement attractions at the pier long ago.
He still has fond memories of back then.
“And my kids do,” he said.
Simpson even has items his parents won at a former bingo parlor located within the township.
Over the years, Simpson said he’s “seen a lot of changes, most of them for the good I think.”
As for the new pier?
“I think it’ll be a good thing because it’ll draw the people back here,” he said.
In July, the town council controversially voted 3-2 to award a bid to Orion Marine Group and FBi Construction for the pier construction work. However, the vote was later rescinded; the town’s rules had been violated because the bid information was not advertised in a newspaper.
The vote ultimately resulted in some council members filing a lawsuit against the town and other members of council. The suit remains pending.
In September, the town council voted to award the bid to Consensus Construction & Consulting, Inc.
The company was originally based in Georgetown and is now headquartered near Myrtle Beach.
On Monday, Consensus leadership said workers are looking at implementing value engineering practices that could reduce the project’s cost.
The town has released renderings on its website showing what the new pier will look like once it’s constructed.
“It’s going to be a great focal point for the town,” town councilman David Pellegrino said. “It’s going to bring in revenue and it’s going to be a great place for our residents and visitors to enjoy.”