The fate of the Superblock in downtown Myrtle Beach rests in the hands of the city’s new mayor and city councilors. They’re tackling the big questions of just what to do with the city-owned properties this week.
On Thursday, city council members are heading to Columbia to visit the EdVenture Children’s Museum and then to Greenville where they will meet tour downtown Greenville and meet with city leaders, in hopes of getting new ideas for how to revitalize Myrtle Beach’s downtown.
Council will spend the majority of their trip in Greenville where they will meet with Greenville Mayor Knox White andother city leaders.
The Superblock and downtown area became a hot-button issue after former Mayor John Rhodes announced plans to tear down the Superblock properties to make way for a new children’s museum and library.
During that time the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation was purchasing properties in the area to make room for the project, but two property owners refused to enter into the agreement and city leaders started making moved to force the owners to sell.
Now, with a newly elected city council, the plans are now in question.
Whether or not to use eminent domain
Questions around eminent domain for two properties on the Superblock could soon be quashed by Myrtle Beach City Council, after members discussed the fate of the area during a council retreat Tuesday morning.
Eminent domain is used by government entities to take ownership of private land that is intended for a public use. Land owners must be paid an assessed market value.
City council members asked City Manager John Pedersen to put a motion on the agenda for the next council meeting, saying that eminent domain cannot be used on the two properties, Photographer Jack Thompson’s gallery, at 503 Ninth Ave. North and House Parts LLC, a home fixture store at 801 N. Kings Hwy.
“What they’ve asked me to do today is put a motion on the agenda to rescind it,” John Pedersen, city manager, said. “That’s as close as they can get today to rescinding it.”
The ability to use eminent domain by city council on the Superblock properties was discussed last February after council presented a plan to build a new children’s museum and library in the area.
While eminent domain was not used after the discussion, Mark Kruea, city spokesperson said, the idea remained a hot topic issue during Tuesday’s retreat.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said during the retreat that we need to “bring some healing and some peace back to a very hot topic in the community.” We need to “find a way to do it without having that out there,” she said.
A children’s museum and library
However, this does not mean that a children’s museum and library could not be built in the area. While city council has not announced specific plans for the area, Pedersen said that taking away eminent domain simply means that a new structure would have to be designed to avoid the two properties.
“They want to explore other opportunities by designing it differently to move forward with the project, which is not with those two properties included,” Pedersen said.
Both plans of eminent domain and a new children’s museum and library were met with ridicule from some city residents when they were first presented.
“Originally I was not a huge proponent of the new library,” Bethune said during the meeting. She continued, saying that through research she learned “the value that a new library can play in downtown revitalization.”
Through her research, Bethune said that a library can add other interactive aspects including a coffee shop and a gift shop.
“It could be a huge value down there if it was positioned correctly,” councilman Phil Render said.
As for a children’s museum Bethune said, “there is still a misperception of people not understanding what a children’s museum is. There are many many examples of utilizing children’s museums in downtown redevelopment and successes of that. And tourists do go to them. It’s a huge attraction for tourists.”
Currently, Coastal Carolina University has expressed interest in three Superblock properties, where they would add a performance arts center and classrooms. The center would be located at 811 Main Street.