Myrtle Beach still hoping to extend boardwalk, seeking private funding

mprabhu@thesunnews.comNovember 4, 2013 

— A dream to extend the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade has yet to move forward after Mayor John Rhodes told a group of the stakeholders it was his goal to have the longest boardwalk in the world a year ago.

A group presented a proposal to the Myrtle Beach City Council about two months ago but was asked to come back with more details. That group has yet to return.

The boardwalk currently stretches from First Avenue North to 15th Avenue North, with the recent completion of a one-block extension to Banditos Restaurant & Cantina.

The city spent about $6 million to construct a 1.2-mile boardwalk from First Avenue North to 14th Avenue North, which opened in 2010. Banditos owner said he wanted to capitalize on the foot traffic that would pass behind his restaurant if the boardwalk went to 15th Avenue North and paid for the 425-foot extension.

Members of the council have said they would like the private sector to sponsor either parts or all of the extension, keeping any public contribution as low as possible.

“I want a plan presented that, at the very least, presents a partnership,” Councilman Philip Render said. “I’m not adverse to looking at a private or public/private [plan]. … I’m looking for someone to present an adequate financial proposal.”

Rhodes said he would like the boardwalk to reach 4.6 miles, extending two miles south to Springmaid Pier and another mile north. He said last year the city would need to find a company or companies that would pick up the tab for the project, in exchange for putting their name on it. The project is estimated to cost about $20 million.

Rhodes said the city has worked to get interest and was still hoping to get someone to come to the table with the money for the extension.

Some business owners on the south end of the beach have said business slowed down for them since the boardwalk opened, said Chris Walker, president of the Oceanfront Merchants Association. Many of the business in the association sit along the boardwalk.

“I think most hotels [and other businesses] would love to be a part of it,” Walker said. “Before it opened, there were some who felt like they didn’t want to be on the boardwalk because there would be droves of people walking around committing crime. We’re not seeing anything like that on the boardwalk.”

Walker said it’s been night and day for businesses from the time after the Myrtle Beach Pavilion closed in 2006 and the boardwalk opened in 2010.

“The main thing it does is it brings so many more people down to the ocean that maybe don’t want to go down to the sand but want to be near the water,” Walker said. “And that’s good for all of the businesses here.”

Walker said he thinks the entire commercial stretch of the beach would benefit from the extension of the boardwalk.

“Even when I go somewhere else I want to be able to walk to attractions,” he said. “Extending the boardwalk is a step in the right direction.”

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce will hold a press conference this week with OMA, the Downtown Redevelopment Corp., the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association and the city of Myrtle Beach to announce an award the boardwalk recently received. Those involved did not say what award the boardwalk won.

The boardwalk made three national lists this year, being named by Budget Travel as one of America’s Most Awesome Boardwalks, ranking 12th in USA Today as 24 best boardwalks for food in the country and was recognized in Bicycling magazine’s online edition as one of the 10 Best Boardwalks for Cycling.

The press conference will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the chamber of commerce, 1200 N. Oak St.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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