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Revitalizing downtown: Myrtle Beach City leaders look to other areas for inspiration

Revitalizing downtown: Myrtle Beach City leaders look to other areas for inspiration, (Sydney Glenn/WPDE)

Myrtle Beach City Council members, including Mayor Brenda Bethune, took a trip to Greenville and Columbia to get some downtown revitalization inspiration.

The future of downtown has been up in the air for at least the past year.

“I think having a very clear vision is the most important thing for us to look at moving forward,” Mayor Bethune said.

The clear vision is not done yet. Bethune said they are still at the beginning stages.

“The vision part, I think, will not take very long. And then we will work on the strategy and the phases and getting the right people to the table with us to help make it happen,” she said.

Both Bethune and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO agree, it’s time to make a plan and take action.

“Making sure that our downtown has a less tired image, that’s it’s refreshed, that it’s family friendly and that it’s what our younger generations want, not just the older visitors, but the millennials and younger is absolutely vital to the Myrtle Beach area,” Brad Dean said.

There have been a lot of conversations about what to do, but not much action.

“I understand that because of what has happened in the past that maybe people are a little skeptical of something actually happening. But, I’m very passionate about it, I’m driven and I believe that if Myrtle Beach is going to continue to grow in the right direction and offer more to everyone, that this is the project that has to happen to help that,” Bethune said.

The unclear vision has made it difficult to attract and keep businesses.

Before Good Day Café opened in Downtown Myrtle Beach, the owner heard the concerns from other people.

“Everybody was worried about eminent domain, everyone was worried about all these buildings being taken over and knocked down and put up something else. I don’t believe in that, I believe that again, small business is the back bone of any community. We’re here and we’re going to be a part of the spine,” Kevin Andrews said.

Related: Superblock building's potential new owner seen as boost to business

The exact vision may be unclear right now, but Bethune has a lot of ideas.

“I hope that we will restore the historic buildings. We do have so many down there and we have talked about actually naming that the ‘Historic Downtown Myrtle Beach District’ and tapping into some of the tax credits that are available for those businesses, for those buildings and I see some green space and you know, great walkability, shops, dining, an arts district, urban living, all kinds of things that people expect in a thriving downtown area,” she said.

Last year, former Mayor John Rhodes announced plans for a new library and children's museum that would be coming to the downtown area. Since that announcement, the future of those projects have remained uncertain.

There is no update on the progress for either project, but city leaders did spend time in Columbia's children's museum.

“[The Children’s Museum] being located somewhere in the Super Block could be a huge attraction for residents, for tourists, for our school groups. But to also attract other businesses, that could help spark an arts district for us," Bethune said.

Bethune said she doesn’t think this will be the last trip council makes.

The trip cost about $3,500 according to a city spokesperson.

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