In 2016, the REALTOR® Party established a Smart Growth mindset in the City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, by funding an in-depth walkability study that continues to inform local decision-makers on infrastructure improvements. Improvements large and small undertaken by the local REALTORS® and the city have strengthened the partnership and leveraged additional outside support.
In the coastal community of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the year-round population of 36K swells into the millions during the summer, pedestrian safety is a natural priority. The city began addressing this issue back in 2016 with the help of the Coastal Carolinas Association of REALTORS®, which had received a pilot grant from the REALTOR® Party to conduct its first in-depth walkability study. The resulting report detailed a range of adjustments that would improve not only the health and safety, but also the economic outlook of Myrtle Beach. In the years since, the city administration and the REALTORS® have worked together to make this vision a reality.
“I can’t emphasize enough the doors the grants from the REALTOR® Party have opened for us in the City of Myrtle Beach and surrounding communities,” states Laura Crowther, CEO of the Coastal Carolinas Association. “We have great relationships with elected officials and staff, and I give much credit to the ability to use the grants for community improvements!”
That first grant, for a walkability workshop and study, was a powerful catalyst, agrees Madison Cooper, the association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “Our subsequent efforts have grown organically from the study, and the REALTORS® remain a force for advancing the city’s walkability and livability. The city knows it can count on us, and we appreciate all that the administration is doing to improve quality of life in Myrtle Beach, so it’s beneficial both ways.”
A key feature of the city’s recent Master Plan is the creation of a vibrant Arts and Innovation District in the urban center of Myrtle Beach, a concept recommended in the walkability study. As Mark Kruea, the city’s Public Information Director, describes, “It’s a unique opportunity to build a walkable, bike-able streetscape that ties together the renovated buildings, realigned roadways and new public spaces. We are layering-in the people-friendly elements that will make the spaces inviting and connected.”
The City Council has also created a downtown Municipal Improvement District funded by an additional 1% tax on businesses, which overwhelmingly support it; this will be administered by a new public-private office, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance.
In the years since the walkability study, the Coastal Carolinas Association has secured two Placemaking Grants from the REALTOR® Party. The first rehabilitated a central downtown plaza where popular concerts are held, while a second, smaller, grant enhanced the safety of the alleyway connecting the plaza to its parking lot, with new lighting and benches. For its part, the city has invested in other projects to improve pedestrian safety, including the installation of brick borders and decorative fencing to buffer sidewalks along major traffic corridors. “It seems like such a simple thing,” says Cooper, “but many visitors are unfamiliar with where they should be crossing the streets, and we don’t want them inadvertently stepping out into traffic.” These relatively modest projects have encouraged additional outside investment in the community’s efforts to amp-up walkable appeal: a recent grant from AARP has enabled the city to embellish utility boxes at intersections with colorful scenes that add life to downtown crosswalks.
“We can’t overstate the impact that the walkability study has had on the local community,” asserts Cooper. “In fact, the influence of its Smart Growth development concepts goes beyond the city limits: the REALTORS® recently submitted a letter of support to the county, urging it to settle an easement that will allow the city to create a rail trail that will revitalize its northern district. There is no doubt that our original study back in 2016 has created this mindset of healthy development and improved quality of life!”
To learn more about how the Coastal Carolinas Association of REALTORS® is working to improve the health, safety, and quality of life in its communities, contact CEO Laura Crowther at email@example.com or 843.839.8084; or Madison Cooper, Vice President of Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.