Thursday’s editorial celebrates the recent revitalization of Myrtle Beach’s downtown:
Everybody likes a comeback story. And the local leaders overseeing Myrtle Beach’s downtown have written a humdinger of one.
A few years ago, the outlook for Myrtle Beach’s aging and faded downtown was grim. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion, anchor of downtown entertainment, had closed its doors. Buildings and storefronts were run down. Long-time festivals and events were picking up stakes and relocating to the more appealing and brand new Market Common. The area seemed doomed to suffer the same fate of dying and decrepit downtowns across the nation. Luckily, the neighborhood’s withering went neither unnoticed or unheeded.
The dedicated work of the Oceanfront Merchants Association, along with the Downtown Redevelopment Corp. and the sustained support of Myrtle Beach City Council, has engineered a remarkable turnaround for what had been a neighborhood sliding into disrepair and shabbiness.
“Myrtle Beach was built on having something for everyone, and the Boulevard used to be a microcosm of that,” downtown merchant Chris Walker told reporter Lorena Anderson recently. “We lost a lot of diversity down there for a while in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and we fell behind the other areas offering entertainment. But in the past few years, we’ve gotten back on point.”
Back on point indeed. The construction of the boardwalk, combined with the restaurants and attractions that have grown up around it, has done much to reclaim the area as the vibrant heart of the city. Facades and signs throughout the area have been updated. Businesses like the Second Avenue Pier have renovated and updated.
Add to that the hard work of the business-oriented groups that organized and held large festivals to bring tourists back to the once-thriving section of town. The area enjoyed quite a bit of success in recent years with its St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Hot Summer Nights events, for example. Both drew thousands to the Ocean Boulevard area to enjoy music, fun and camaraderie. Now two of the area’s major celebrations will also focus their festivities on downtown this year. Food festival Coastal Uncorked, which starts this weekend, and Military Appreciation Days in May will both take advantage of the revitalized area.
While impressive in itself, the neighborhood’s revitalization is more important to the city than just the changes made in one small area. The downtown revival will also ripple out beyond the few blocks it makes up. Research by the Knight Foundation, through its Soul of the Community studies, has found that offering places such as these for residents to gather and share social experiences, and particularly in aesthetically pleasing settings (like on the oceanfront) engenders a stronger sense of community attachment. That attachment in turn correlates with higher economic growth and stability.
In short, happier residents mean a better future for the city. Those who’ve shepherded the turnaround of the city’s downtown have done yeoman’s work and deserve a hearty pat on the back. The downtown that greets visitors today is a more vibrant, lively, energetic and attractive one than they would have seen five years ago. There are still tweaks to be made, of course – storefronts that still need tenants, businesses that need updating – but the pendulum is once again swinging in the right direction and that’s good news for all of us.