Myrtle Beach hopes zoning change spurs creative downtown development

Myrtle Beach approved the creation of a floating zone Tuesday, which allows developers to propose creative project in the south mixed-use area of downtown.
Myrtle Beach approved the creation of a floating zone Tuesday, which allows developers to propose creative project in the south mixed-use area of downtown. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Myrtle Beach officials on Tuesday said they hope approving a “floating zone” in a portion of downtown will help spur creative, mixed-use development in an area that has been neglected for years.

The floating zone allows developers to propose projects that might not fit the current zoning in the portion of downtown referred to as the south mixed-use area, which is

defined as the area from First Avenue North to Seventh Avenue North and from the Atlantic Ocean to Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. Current zoning, MU-H, allows for development such as commercial and retail.

“It’s amazing when you go down there and you wander around and see the potential for what it could be,” City Manager John Pedersen said.

City Council in January approved a set of strategic initiatives to help guide its decision making, which included focusing on the south mixed-use area. The floating zone is the latest in a series of steps taken that council hopes will spur development in that part of town.

“Let’s hope that it’s going to really help that area,” City Councilman Michael Chestnut said. “We all know that’s an area that needs some help. I hope people realize what we’re trying to do and just get on board.”

This is the latest step the city has approved aiming to improve the area. Myrtle Beach established a $10 million line of credit that could be used to demolish blighted property. Officials also plan to step up enforcement of city code later this year after a courtesy period aiming to give owners the chance to comply.

City Council members on Tuesday approved the creation of the floating zone, saying they hope developers get the message that Myrtle Beach is looking for creative ideas for that part of town.

“This offers a clean slate in terms of what a developer can propose,” Pedersen said. “For example, a microbrewery could go down there if the council approves. ... But it doesn’t mean the developer can do whatever they want. It still has to come before [Myrtle Beach City] Council.”

To qualify to develop under the “floating zone,” a project must have a $1 million minimum investment within the south-mixed use area

Each development proposal would go before the Planning Commission, with a public hearing, and then be up for approval by the City Council.

Many of the changes the city has made are in line with recommendations from Charleston-based Urban Land Institute, which was hired by the Downtown Redevelopment Corp. to study the area and offer suggestions of ways to improve issues in the south mixed-use area.

Pedersen said city staff will tweak the results from ULI’s study and present the guidelines to City Council for consideration to be adopted as policy.

“This reflects a future that is different than the past,” Pedersen said. “It’s not going to be all accommodations down there anymore.”

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.