When Myrtle Beach announced its plan to move its library and a new children’s museum downtown, officials said the city would finance the project to bring new life to an area that’s been plagued by crime.
But EdVenture, the museum company Myrtle Beach plans to partner with, could stand to benefit from another form of city financing—financial incentives meant to bring “experiential retail,” like a museum, into the city limits.
“Yeah, probably it would [be eligible],” City Manager John Pedersen said. “I really hadn’t thought about that before.”
Myrtle Beach enacted the incentives last month. The museum would be able to apply for a reimbursement of up to 2 percent of its construction costs, city officials said. The incentives are disbursed through vouchers for city services or building fees.
But under the current proposal, the museum would be the tenant of a building built by Myrtle Beach and financed with its $10 million loan pool. The same pool is being used to cobble together land for the project, and the city has already bought five lots on the downtown superblock, the future site of the complex, for over $1.3 million according to Horry County land records.
Councilman Wayne Gray said the museum would only be able to ask for incentives for work they do inside the building.
“The business [that applies] may not always build the structure, so whatever it builds out in terms of the upfitting or the inside of a structure would qualify for the incentive as well,” he said. “Most of the cost is in the site work and in the structure.”
Mayor John Rhodes has said the city was searching for development plans for the slated museum site for years. In a phone call Monday, he said Myrtle Beach officials had been talking about their more specific proposal, for the combination museum and library, for about six months.
But, he said, the economic incentives were not passed with the museum in mind, even though the redevelopment was in the works long before the subsidy passed.
“This deal stood on its own merit,” he said.
EdVenture Chief Executive Officer Karen Coltrane said Monday it was the first time she had heard of the incentives.
“I don’t think it’s geared toward us,” she said.
Pedersen said city council would have to approve an application if EdVenture submits one in the future. But that would put Myrtle Beach in the position of considering a financial request from a tenant, if the city’s plan goes through.
“There has been absolutely no discussion of applying that incentive in this case,” Pedersen said. “So the issue of whether it’s a conflict of interest or not has not come up.”