Katie O’Dea-Horne occasionally gets asked about the large old building a few doors down from her gourmet grocery.
For nearly 18 months, the Conway businesswoman has run Back to Basics Natural and Organic Co-op at 412 Main St. Less than a block away sits the brick monolith that for decades served as the Horry County Museum. County officials donated the property to the City of Conway last year after the museum moved.
“They’ve asked if the museum is still there,” O’Dea-Horne said of her customers. “I’ve had one person that even asked if the post office was still there. I don’t even know how long the post has been gone.”
The building, which was constructed in the mid-1930s, hasn’t been a post office since 1977. And after more than 30 years as a museum, the structure may wind up being a city-run banquet hall.
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“This is a wonderful building,” said Myrtle Beach architect Greg McFarland. “[But] it needs some work done to it.”
McFarland discussed the building’s potential with Conway City Council during a brief meeting inside the former museum this week.
Along with renting the space for wedding receptions, reunions and small conferences, city officials are considering making the 6,838-square-foot center the new headquarters of Conway Downtown Alive (CDA), an organization that promotes the city.
“The building that we are currently in is going to be redeveloped in the coming six months to a year,” said Hillary Howard, executive director of the CDA. “We’re looking for a new home.”
City Administrator Bill Graham said Conway officials originally wanted to make the old building a business development center. But after Coastal Carolina University took the lead on that project, another site was selected.
That cleared the way for the city to use the property for other purposes.
Graham pointed out that one of the recommendations of a 2013 downtown market analysis was to establish a banquet hall in the heart of the city.
“In fact, the study mentions this very building being a potential location for a meeting hall,” he said.
McFarland and partner Joe Pike told council members that the building would need additional bathrooms, a central heating and cooling system and new lighting, among other upgrades.
The architects estimate the hall could seat about 100 people comfortably and still have room for a small performance area.
City leaders, they said, could add more elaborate features such as a downstairs kitchen or a buffet/bar in the main gathering area.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, I think, for this building and for reaching out to the community,” McFarland said. “We’ve actually been working with a number of other counties who are doing similar things: taking perhaps historic buildings and repurposing them.”
One question city leaders haven’t yet answered is how much remodeling the 80-year-old structure will cost. Graham said that if council members like the banquet hall idea, then they can gather estimates. So far, the concept seems to be going over well with local officials.
O’Dea-Horne, the nearby store owner, also supports the banquet hall proposal.
“That would be fantastic,” the Brooklyn native said. “I get a lot of calls, people asking me actually for rental spaces like that. ... Where I’m from in New York, there’s a lot of banquet halls everywhere.”