Some landowners in downtown Myrtle Beach say the area lacks adequate infrastructure to encourage business, despite years of discussion over how to best invigorate the area.
Mike Hobeika owns the properties at 815 to 821 Main St. He said that he’s had difficulty securing long-term leases, and that he doesn’t see a cohesive vision from the city on what to do in the area.
“Piece by piece the infrastructure around our neighborhood has slowly been removed, street by street and parking space by parking space,” Hobeika said.
Piece by piece the infrastructure around our neighborhood has slowly been removed, street by street and parking space by parking space.
Downtown land owner Mike Hobeika
Hobeika said a lack of parking hurts businesses in the area.
Dave Sebok, president of the Downtown Redevelopment Corp., said a project to bring more parking spots to the area around Main Street is underway, and could be completed next year, pending approval at the state level.
However, Kristen Brooks, a tenant at 813 Main St. with home and kitchen good store Birchline, said she’s been waiting on the parking project to be finished. Brooks’ shop was renovated in April, and she said she originally heard that the parking project would be completed in September.
“We’ll look for another location if they don’t build it,” she said. “We can go a whole day without anyone coming in. … I was with the GAP for 25 years. Retail is in my blood, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Retail is in my blood, but I’ve never seen anything like this.
Kristen Brooks, of downtown shop Birchline
Trees blocking businesses
Tuvia “Tim” Wilkes owns several properties in the downtown area, including one near Sixth Avenue North that he said he offered to a yoga instructor to use for free. The offer was turned down, he said.
Wilkes agreed that a lack of parking and trees blocking signs is an issue in the area.
Hobeika also said trees, from an earlier attempt at redevelopment, are an issue. “You can’t see the signs of the businesses,” he said. “If it was your front yard, it would be like planting trees in your front yard so no one could see your house.”
They were little trees at the time, and of course, they grow up.
Downtown Redevelopment Corp. President Dave Sebok
Sebok said that trees blocking signage is a complaint that comes from other neighborhoods as well, and said maintaining trees is a “balance” to ensure streets please business owners and remain pedestrian-friendly.
“When the city did that public investment in hopes of scoring some private investment, it didn’t really spur on a private reinvestment as people had envisioned and hoped,” Sebok said. “They were little trees at the time and of course, they grow up.”
Wilkes said that outside developments have drained traffic from the downtown, and that city support for those projects has hurt the downtown over time.
“They’re just picking the winners and the losers,” he said. “Now they’re picking the winners and putting them at (The) Market Common, and they did it before with Broadway at the Beach.”
They’re just picking the winners and the losers. Now they’re picking the winners and putting them at Market Common, and they did it before with Broadway at the Beach.
Downtown landowner Tim Wilkes
John Pedersen, the city manager for Myrtle Beach, responded that the city has made significant investments in the area, including the boardwalk and a recent beautification program.
“I can understand [Wilkes’] frustration, but the area did not deteriorate in a year, and it’s not gonna turn around in that much time,” Pedersen said. “It’s a process, it’s going to take time and it’s also going to take private investment. The city’s not picking winners and losers.”
[Downtown] did not deteriorate in a year and it’s not gonna turn around in that much time. It’s a process, it’s going to take time, and its also going to take private investment.
City Manager John Pedersen
Councilman Randal Wallace said that outside developments have had an effect on traffic in the downtown area, but said developments like Broadway at the Beach and The Market Common are sometimes more straightforward for tenants because each one is controlled by a single landowner.
“We inherited the airbase and we did put a lot of money and infrastructure into that to make that. I don’t think we’re picking and choosing winners … Downtown’s just a different animal,” he said. “We’re working, I think, to help this area compete now.”