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      Commercial boom underway in Carolina Forest

      The Carolina Forest development in Horry County is booming. Stores, restaurants and doctors' offices are popping up all over.

      U.S. Census figures from 2010 show the population in Carolina Forest grew more than 500 percent in a decade, to 21,000.

      Horry County planning officials say now that commercial developers have seen those census figures, stores and restaurants are going up quickly.

      "There's still obviously some parts of Carolina Forest to be developed, particularly some commercial areas, but the residential came online I think much quicker than everyone anticipated," said county planning director Janet Carter.

      A new McDonald's restaurant just opened in the Town Centre area of Carolina Forest this week. Carter says another fast food restaurant and a gas station have been given approval to go up next door.

      In all, eight new properties, including two dentists, a medical clinic and an office building, are under construction in Carolina Forest or in the process of gaining approval to build, she said.

      The owner of a children's clothing resale shop that just opened last month in the Forest Crossing retail development says she chose Carolina Forest because the area seems to be exploding.

      "The population is just growing and growing and growing out here and the housing developments have families and times are tough now, so we thought maybe we would do a resale store out here," said Cindy Whitt, owner of It's a Small World.

      A Carolina Forest real estate agent says the housing market is improving, so the area's fast growth should continue.

      "Up and down Carolina Forest Boulevard, people are picking up some of the lots that were available and starting to build some homes on those now," said Kim Rogers of Weichert Realtors.

      Carter says the Town Centre on International Drive was always intended to be Carolina Forest's unofficial downtown.

      It didn't take off as fast as officials had expected, she says, but now that the homes are there, the downtown is catching up.

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