Shopping center construction seeing resurgence along the Grand Strand

New home construction along the Grand Strand has picked up noticeably this year, and now retail construction is seeing its own resurgence.

New shopping center developments between Carolina Forest and the Tanger Outlet on U.S. 501 and on Farrow Parkway at U.S. 17 Bypass bring to at least five the number of retail centers being built or under development from North Myrtle Beach to Surfside Beach.

Mike Wooten, president of DDC Engineers, won’t give any hints of what’s coming to the area near Carolina Forest.

“I’m excited,” he said, “but I can’t say a word.”

He said he and the major tenant have a non-disclosure agreement that holds everything under wraps until the tenant is ready to issue a news release.

Likewise, Roger Grigg won’t disclose the name of the high-quality grocer that will be the major tenant at Farrow Common, but the rest of the site’s development is pretty clear from plans his company has already submitted to the city of Myrtle Beach.

The shopping center will have a 45,000 square-foot grocery store – a national chain whose new store will have its first drive-thru pharmacy in this area – and several retail spaces connected to it. Grigg said the center will include another small retail area as well as outparcels with a bank and a couple of restaurants.

Grigg said Farrow Common LLC has property on all four corners at or near the intersection of Farrow Parkway and Fred Nash Boulevard. While he said there are no plans yet for development of the other parcels, the plan submitted to Myrtle Beach shows that significant additional retail space could go up across Nash from the center he plans to open next year.

Chamber of commerce officials in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach said the retail construction push is largely due to developers reinvigorating projects that had been put on hold during the recession.

“From what I’m hearing,” said Marc Jordan, CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, “there’s a little bit more confidence in some folks that have been holding back.”

That is true for at least one of two new sizeable shopping centers that should be open by sometime in 2015 in North Myrtle Beach.

Champions Crossing along Robert Edge Parkway has been owned by a Winston-Salem, N.C., developer for a number of years. Scott Williamson, the company’s vice president, said he hopes to attract merchants from out of the area that will appeal to a regional audience.

Another shopping center, Coastal North Town Center along U.S. 17 near Gator Hole Plaza, should open later this year with the Grand Strand’s first Hobby Lobby and Publix Super Market, as well as other stores that already have a presence along the Grand Strand: TJ Maxx, Ulta Beauty, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ross Dress for Less, Rack Room Shoes, PetSmart and Versona Accessories.

Near Surfside Beach, construction is nearly complete on a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and other stores. The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, the first along the Grand Strand, is scheduled to open May 14.

Jordan said that the addition of Brunswick County, N.C., to the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area gives the region the population – more than 400,000 – that will begin to attract a new level of developers.

“[Brunswick County’s estimated 117,000 people] add to the numbers,” he said, “and when an investor is looking at an area that’s what they look at.”

Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said that out-of-market developers are very interested in where Grand Strand tourists are coming from and how many from varying demographic groups.

He said he can tell them that much of the area’s growth in tourism comes from markets that haven’t been a traditional draw and that more upper income visitors are among the mix.

“While we are still very popular with the average, middle-class consumer,” he wrote in an email, “the Grand Strand’s visitor base is diversifying somewhat and that broadens our appeal to new businesses, including developers.”

Dean further noted that the area’s population growth is among the fastest in the country, and that the additional population creates new business opportunities.

Grigg, president of Leonard, Grigg and Associates, said the retail businesses at Farrow Parkway will be neighborhood and necessity shops such as a delicatessen, dry cleaner and medical office.

The development, which includes apartments behind the retail on Nash Boulevard, will have extensive landscaped walkways that will be in keeping with the pedestrian-friendly development on the rest of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

Grigg said he should begin construction on the grocery and associated stores in September with completion in spring 2015.

The parcel across Fred Nash totals 33 acres, he said, and there is no timetable on its development.