Piece by historic piece, the 58-year-old Pavilion building on the oceanfront has started to come down.
Gone are the red Pavilion letters and the familiar neon palm tree that decorated the arch-topped dance hall and arcade for decades, leaving a dark outline.
A chain-link fence, covered with a black fabric, surrounds the block along Ocean Boulevard that for so long was the hub of the beach's tourist scene.
From now until June, passersby will hear the clang of rides being dismantled and the loud hum of heavy equipment tearing into tradition.
As the historic building starts coming down, locals and tourists still are waiting to find out what will replace it. Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc.'s redevelopment plan won't be released by year's end as the company estimated this summer.
B & C owns The Pavilion, which was an anchor downtown that consumed about 11 acres.
"Our objective is not to just get it done, but to get it right, '' said Pat Dowling, B & C's spokesman. "We want to invest the time and effort required to achieve the right plan for that unique piece of property.''
LS3P, a Charleston planning firm, is still working on the details, Dowling said.
B & C also has had ongoing talks with the city's Downtown Redevelopment Corp., which is working on building a $10 million, mile-long boardwalk from the pier at Second Avenue North to the pier at 14th Avenue North. B & C says that project, as well as city-funded traffic and parking improvements, are crucial to keeping the redevelopment effort going.
"The public side of things weighs heavily on what we will do downtown, '' Dowling said.
The Pavilion site will be cleared by June, but no new attraction will open for the summer.
Grass will grow where folks used to frolic and eat funnel cakes, and a fence will surround the site, much like B & C did with the former Myrtle Square Mall site a few miles down Kings Highway. LS3P is working on a plan for that property, too.
Crews started this week removing The Pavilion's roof, which contains asbestos that must be carefully disposed of, Dowling said. Next week, heavy equipment should begin knocking down the walkway to The Attic dance club and the Pavilion building. It will take between six and eight weeks to tear the building down.
Across Ocean Boulevard in the amusement park, most of the rides are gone. The Hurricane, Haunted House, Hydrosurge, Log Flume and Treasure Hunt rides remain. B & C has sold, or is trying to sell, those rides. B & C anticipates they will be gone by Jan. 5. In late January or early February, any remaining buildings in the amusement park will be demolished.
The Myrtle Beach Police Department hasn't noticed problems in the area as a result of the park's closure in September, Capt. Dave Knipes said. Officers patrol the area as usual for this time of year.
Meanwhile, officials don't have an estimate of how much the city would have to pay for traffic and parking improvements related to the redevelopment. The downtown redevelopment group continues working on the boardwalk plan, though construction of the first phase likely won't start until next winter.
"We should all work in earnest to come up with a [redevelopment] plan, '' said Dave Sebok, the DRC's executive director.
Faced with an 11-acre void downtown, business owners plan to meet next week to talk about forming a group to market the area post-Pavilion. Though the amusement park will be gone, other staples will remain, including the Gay Dolphin Gift Shop, Ripley's attractions, Peaches Corner, Marvin's and others. B & C supports the group and will participate, Dowling said.
"Downtown is not a magnet anymore, '' he said. "In order to get where everybody wants to be, you've got to go through this period of redevelopment. It's a long process. People need to understand that. Downtown is not going to re-evolve overnight.''