Editor’s note: Myrtle Beach has issued a demolition permit for The Palace Theatre and crews have begun initial work.
The owners of the Palace Theatre property are moving swiftly to demolish the 2,700-seat former performing arts venue. Rather than demolish the building, Chapin Company should explore their financial options for the sale and transfer or lease the property in a public-private partnership in light of Myrtle Beach's ambition to develop a new performing arts center, as well as the broader arts and cultural needs in Horry County.
There is a need to pause the plans for demolition and assess the structure as an opportunity for redevelopment. If there is political will, Myrtle Beach City Council is in a position to intervene. The Palace Theatre property has the physical capacity to meet the community’s long-sought site requirements for the performing arts, as well as addressing other arts and cultural needs. There is a need to pursue a formal estimate of probable costs and a feasibility study; without a formal analysis, this demolition project seems premature and irresponsible.
Myrtle Beach has recently selected plans for a $9.8 million Performing Art Center and Amphitheater. But it is prudent to first test whether it makes more sense to repair and upgrade the Palace Theatre. In cases like these, a public-private partnership can provide a long-term, performance-based arrangement.
These situations are most suitable when public partners, such as Myrtle Beach, and non-profits like Conway Cultural Development Corporation and private entities like Chapin, as well as private investors, can forge a beneficial agreement to work toward a common aim. Further, such partnerships provide for the involvement of other stakeholders such as private foundations and state and federal agencies. That would make grants, investments, sponsorships and donations possible.
While the efforts to build a new performing arts center and amphitheater in Myrtle Beach are in-process and the committee has selected an architecture firm, City Council has not made a commitment to fund the project through the proposed bond referendum, meaning an opportunity remains to conduct a formal analysis. It is time to reassess the financial considerations already on the table.
Responsible financial analysis should test the option to split the amphitheater and performing arts center into different projects. The plans currently under consideration do not provide for adequate parking. Previous pro-forma financial analysis has not yielded a model that makes the proposed performing arts center profitable without relying on the support of the amphitheater project.
While it is possible that Chapin and Myrtle Beach have other redevelopment plans for the Palace site, all expenses need to be re-evaluated in light of the many financial incentives and opportunities for cost-sharing.
It would be a shame to tear the Palace Theatre down without examining all of these alternatives. I hope City Council will take the time to investigate the value that the Palace Theatre property can provide all of Horry County.
The writer is president and founder of the Conway Cultural Development Corporation.