By Paul Gable
Tuesday’s announcement by city officials that a library and children’s museum is being planned for the Superblock in downtown Myrtle Beach does not come without raising questions.
Over the past several months, mystery has surrounded contacts to property owners in the Superblock area from Metro Properties representing an “undisclosed buyer.”
Ostensibly the city attempted to maintain secrecy in order to keep property values from escalating, according to statements by several city officials.
Maybe, but this sounds like we haven’t heard the entire story so far. According to media reports, Mayor John Rhodes went out of his way to assure everyone that ‘sales have been made between willing buyers and willing sellers’ and ‘fair market prices have been accepted with willing buyers.’
Why the need to sound like ‘he doth protest too much?’
Another question – why is Chapin Library part of this grand city plan?
When the South Carolina General Assembly passed Home Rule legislation in 1975, it specifically made libraries a responsibility and function of county government. Chapin Library is a city owned library that pre-dates home rule, but has been the subject of discussions between city council and county council over the last decade, with the city looking to get out of the library business or, at least, have the county pick up the costs of running the library.
Now, in an apparent reversal, the city plans to build a new library with a line of credit backed by taxpayer dollars.
No one argues the Superblock is not a blighted area that needs redevelopment. One could argue things in that area haven’t changed much since the early 1990’s when then city council members allowed Burroughs and Chapin to hijack money targeted for downtown redevelopment and use it instead to build Broadway at the Beach.
Another question – is this the best plan the city could come up with?
Horry County Council has plans to replace the county services building on 21st Avenue North in a couple of years with a new, expanded facility.
If the goal is to increase citizen traffic in the area in order to attract commercial businesses, restaurants and the like, is that better served by a library and children’s museum or a county services building that houses branches of the treasurer, auditor, clerk of court, magistrate, probate judge, courtrooms and so on.
Yes, a new library is part of the plans for the new county complex at this time.
Frankly, a private, commercial venue with at least one anchor attraction would be the best solution to Superblock redevelopment. Was this considered? Were attempts in this direction unsuccessful? Exactly what is the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation doing to redevelop downtown Myrtle Beach?