Months after The Sun News reported that Myrtle Beach was buying downtown property and the city then announced the land would become a library and museum complex, officials are still negotiating with two landowners over property prices.
Myrtle Beach has spent more than $3 million on the 12 parcels it has already bought through the Downtown Redevelopment Corp., a non-profit arm of the city. The DRC had also paid $234,600 as of Thursday in fees to attorneys and a property broker.
But EdVenture, the non-profit museum company that will occupy part of the city’s final building, said it’s in no rush.
Karen Coltrane, the president and chief executive officer of EdVenture, said that the company and the city are working together with a target of opening in the spring of 2019.
“That’s totally dependent on the city’s timing with the building, obviously,” Coltrane said. “We can be flexible.”
The current site of the Children’s Museum of South Carolina on North Oak Street is on a month-to-month lease with Burroughs and Chapin Co., Coltrane said (EdVenture, which is based in Columbia, merged with CMSC earlier this year.) Burroughs and Chapin has also allowed the museum to operate on its land rent-free, treating the space as a donation, Coltrane said.
“That museum would not have been able to be there without the kindness of Burroughs and Chapin to allow the museum to have that space,” she said. “A lot of kids have had a lot of fun experiences as a result of their kindness.”
But the next home of the museum will be owned instead by the city of Myrtle Beach. EdVenture will fill the space with $2 million worth of exhibits. Coltrane said that her company and the city have not entered negotiations on a lease for the museum.
“If they came back and said ‘You’ve got to pay market rate for the rent,’ we couldn’t, obviously, do that,” Coltrane said.
But, she said, “We know that the city wants us there, they know that we want to be there, and I can’t imagine that that’s a detail — when the time is right, that we don’t come to a good place on that.”
City Manager John Pedersen said the city was not approaching the space as a typical commercial property.
“We don’t have any belief or any thought that we were looking for a market-rate tenant,” Pedersen said. “We really think the two entities, the library and the museum, are really exciting partners.”
He said he expects a long-term lease agreement with EdVenture, but declined to identify exactly how long that commitment could last.
While EdVenture waits, two property owners are still in discussions with Myrtle Beach to sell their lots. The city authorized the use of eminent domain earlier this year — the legal process that allows public entities to force the sale of a parcel for a public purpose. But the move may prove to have been more of a bargaining tool, as the city hasn’t commenced a formal legal action for either property yet.
Miles Adler, an attorney representing the owners of House Parts, a home fixture store at 801 N. Kings Hwy, said an out-of-market appraiser selected by the city viewed the property in April. The appraiser has not come back with a value for the property yet.
“As it stands right now, everybody’s getting along and [the city is] trying to find some ways to accommodate my clients,” Adler said.
But, he added, “Everything boils down to that number.”
Tom Davis, who owns the building that houses photographer Jack Thompson’s studio at 503 9th Ave. N., said he’s also waiting on a figure after an appraiser looked at his property more than three weeks ago.
“I have no idea what they’ve got up their sleeve,” Davis said.