Myrtle Beach redevelopment group gathering information to determine perception of downtown area

07/28/2014 5:44 PM

11/29/2014 6:38 AM

While most people who visit the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade say they have a high opinion of the area, their opinion decreases some when asked about downtown overall.

The Downtown Redevelopment Corp. executive assistant Lauren Clever said that the agency is still collecting information from tourists this summer and have not yet crunched the numbers to see how much the opinion decreases.

“But there’s a significant decrease,” said Carson Edmunds, a rising senior at Coastal Carolina University who is an intern with the DRC. “People say they wish the rest of the downtown area looked like the boardwalk area.”

The DRC is surveying tourists, business owners and residents to help determine how people view the area and what the “next big thing” will be.

The 1.2-mile boardwalk opened in 2010 and stretches from First Avenue North to 15th Avenue North. Bandito’s Restaurant & Cantina owner Chip Smith paid to extend the boardwalk by one block in 2013 to reach his restaurant; the boardwalk previously ended at 14th Avenue North.

DRC staff and interns have been surveying tourists on the boardwalk this summer to gauge their opinion of the area.

“It will give us a general idea of what people feel about the boardwalk,” Clever said.

About 95 percent of people who were questioned while on the boardwalk this summer said it is their favorite attraction in Myrtle Beach, with 25 percent of respondents saying it was their first time visiting the boardwalk.

About 270 people have filled out the 30-question survey since the DRC began collecting information in June. The group had initially wanted to reach 1,000 people by the end of summer, but that won’t be possible.

“It’s a good reality check to make sure we’re on the right path,” Edmunds said of the early results.

Taylor Damonte, who serves as a member of the DRC board as well as the Brand Committee, said the survey was crafted to help the group determine what boardwalk visitors value and how the area meets that expectation.

“We’re going to look at the results and compare how Myrtle Beach is viewed with how Myrtle Beach performs,” he said. “On concepts that seem to be the most important and on which we perform well, we’ll want to communicate that [in the downtown brand]. On concepts that we perform less well but are more important, we need to evaluate what we can do to improve on those issues.”

It initially was thought the survey would help the Brand Committee determine what the next big thing would be for the downtown area, but Clever says she’s not sure if that will be the outcome.

“We’re going to look at [the findings] pretty closely, but we haven’t gotten that far to know what we’re going to do with it, yet,” Clever said.

Edmunds said those taking the surveys have mostly offered smaller ideas to improve the boardwalk and downtown areas such as providing additional ATMs or misters to spray on guests on hot days.

Clever said she hopes to continue to survey tourists at least through Labor Day, but will present updated findings to the DRC board when it meets in August.

Damonte said he hopes the surveys are able to continue throughout the year, to see how – if at all – the responses differ between summer tourists and those who visit at other times of the year.

The survey includes questions such as what other attractions the respondent visits in Myrtle Beach and how much money is spent while here. Damonte said demographics also play a part in the results.

“If opinions vary by where they’re from, we may want to alter our marketing there,” Damonte said. “If [people from] some areas spend more money per person, that’s something to consider as well.”

Ideas and opinions also are being collected through a questionnaire on the DRC website, www.myrtlebeachboardwalk.com.

DRC members plan to use the information gathered to help them identify what it is people think they need or want, and then determine what those things cost.

DRC executive director David Sebok has said that the organization is in financial trouble and needs to find a way to increase revenue.

Sebok and DRC Chairman Chuck Martino have said they hope any projects could be paid for through a municipal improvement district, made up of the DRC area where owners of land and commercial businesses, including rented residential properties, would pay more in taxes for a number of years. Downtown is defined as the area from Sixth Avenue South to 16th Avenue North, from the Atlantic Ocean to Oak Street and Broadway Street.

Money collected through the MID would, in turn, be earmarked for use only on an approved list of projects that benefit the DRC. City Council would have to approve creation of the MID, and some council members have said they oppose the idea.

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