Myrtle Beach's broad, sandy beaches, collection of attractions, and relatively affordable prices have drawn vacationers and conventioneers to the central portion of the Grand Strand—a 60-mile stretch of the South Carolina coastline—since the early 1900s. These days, however, the low-slung family motels, aging amusement parks, and low-cost retail establishments that have created what area architect Randolph Key calls “Nascar pastiche” are being replaced. Myrtle Beach and its sister city, North Myrtle Beach, are hotbeds of luxury residential and high-end retail redevelopment.
Credit: Richard Bickel
Until 1901, when the first hotel was built, the shores of what was then called New Town were rarely visited.
“For years, the Myrtle Beach area has been getting some 14 million visitors per year,” says local architect J. Thomas Pegram, founder and principal of Pegram Associates. (By contrast, in 2006, Virginia Beach, Va., had 2.6 million visitors, and Ocean City, Md., had 8.2 million.) “More and more visitors seem to realize that they can buy condominiums or homes here for far less money than they would spend buying similar projects in New York or Florida,” he notes.
This is pushing developers to build multimillion-dollar homes and “condotels” (condo-hotels), as well as the amenities that will attract future tourists and residents. “Growth will continue, and we need to endeavor to be very wise in how it is handled,” says Key, founder of Key Architecture. “Anyone who fails to join in will be left behind.”
Myrtle Beach's projected population for 2007 is 252,000. Job growth for 2006 was 6.3 percent, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. Employment grew by 5 percent in 2006 and is expected to increase another 3.9 percent in 2007.
- The Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway
- The Children's Museum of South Carolina
- The Franklin G. Burroughs–Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum
- More than 100 golf courses, including ones designed by such luminaries as Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye
According to Will Stork, a research analyst at real estate broker Grubb & Ellis|Wilson/Kibler, Class A inventory will more than double in 2007, with 150,000 square feet under construction. In 2005, the average asking rate for Class A space was $24 per square foot.
Median home prices for 2007 are estimated to be about $211,100, up from $147,200 in 2002, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. Inventory is increasing, however, and several master planned communities are in the offing.
- Strong retail market
- High dependence on tourism
- Large retiree base
- Declining housing affordability and growing housing inventory
- Low cost of living
- Few high-paying jobs and low income growth
“We offer no incentives whatsoever,” declares Bruce Boulineau, Myrtle Beach's director of construction services. “The market is dictating that right now.”
Boulineau estimates that there are a “couple thousand acres” of vacant land in the city. Adds K. Neal Bowers, the managing broker for Grubb & Ellis|Wilson/Kibler's Myrtle Beach office: “Almost everything that's developable is already owned.”
“The numbers work, but the market is softening,” says David Stradinger, a partner at Winchester Land and Development. “There are only two places for oceanfront high-rises between Ocean Beach, Md., and Florida: Virginia Beach, Va., and Myrtle Beach. That's going to keep people coming and developers building.”
Last May, the Winchester Land and Development Corp. opened the “boutique conference resort” Sea Island, a $70 million luxury condotel with 150 furnished units, an indoor pool, and a banquet room. Designed by Pegram Associates.
The Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority is making $30 million in infrastructure improvements—including 29 acres of lakes, parks, and roads—to the former military installation, shuttered since 1993. Developers are planning residential, recreational, restaurant, and retail projects for the site.
The Hard Rock Theme Park, scheduled to open in 2008, is a 140-acre, $400 million project designed and developed by HRP Myrtle Beach Operations. The first-of-its-kind park will include more than 40 attractions, an amphitheater, shows, roller coasters, playgrounds, dining, and retail.
Key Developers and Builders
Burroughs & Chapin Co.
Major project: Tentative plans to redevelop the Pavilion (a former landmark amusement park) and the Myrtle Square Mall
The company is the city's largest employer, with a workforce numbering 2,214 at press time.
Major project: Market Common, a $150 million urban village of 113 acres that will include 181 apartments, 1,441 townhomes and condominiums, and 600,000 square feet of high-end retail and restaurant space; the project is part of the redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base
In 2005, McCaffrey's Market Common Clarendon in Arlington, Va., received an Award of Excellence from the Urban Land Institute.
Winchester Land and Development Corp.
Major project: The $260 million North Beach Towers, which are being developed on a former 60-acre oceanfront campground
Winchester is a 24-year-old, privately held company that has done 25 high-rise condo projects, primarily in Myrtle Beach.
Mozingo + Wallace Architects
Credit: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Major project: The minor-league Coastal Federal Field baseball stadium, which recreated the feel and character of a turn-of-the-century ballpark and won the Brick Association of the Carolinas' 2002 Design with Brick Awards
S. Derrick Mozingo Jr. and Gerald C. Wallace III have been leading the five-person firm since 1984.
Credit: Pegram Associates
Major project: Margaritaville restaurant and shops, an $18 million, 60,000-square-foot addition to Broadway at the Beach, a 350-acre complex of shopping, dining, nightlife, hotels, and other attractions
The 17-person firm, established in 1992, is currently working on projects totaling more than $1 billion.
Major project: Single- and multifamily housing as well as recreation and retail centers at North Beach Plantation, a 64-acre, $300 million development by the Scalise Group
Founded in 1946, the firm has 99 employees and reported $25 million in 2006 billings.