By Billy Keyserling
Cities are a collection of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own character, that make the city whole and diverse.
One of dreams has been to see a few small neighborhood associations become vibrant while encouraged neighborhood associations to come together in neighborhoods that were not organized.
Among the many goals of such associations is to work hand in hand with the city to make their neighborhoods, hence our hometown, an even better place to live, work and visit.
Over the past three years, we have seen a proliferation of Neighborhood Associations, each growing and working harder to keep clean and improve their neighborhoods.
As some will remember, last year volunteers from Beaufort’s neighborhood associations collected more than 400 tons of trash throughout the city. Not only did they make the city cleaner, they reduced fire hazards exponentially.
More recently, a handful of members of the Point Association launched Beautify Beaufort which will hopefully, this Spring, spread throughout the city with residents repainting rusting fire hydrants and cleaning the mildew from Street Signs.
Leaders from neighborhoods meet monthly with the City Neighborhood Improvement Team which includes the police and fire chiefs, the directors of the Planning and Public Works Departments, Codes Enforcement, the Greenery and Waste Pro, among other city staff assigned to support our neighborhoods.
The Pigeon Point Example
Several years ago, when the restoration of Pigeon Point Park came in considerably over budget, the Neighborhood Association, started as a Crime Watch, raised funds and contributed manual labor to ensure that some features the city could not afford were included in making the park what it is today.
Taking the engagement to the next level, they have scheduled a big fundraiser for the park which is being promoted as Touch-A-Truck & Make A Memory Brick Sale, April 2 from 9 a.m. to noon.
All sorts of large trucks used by the city will be lined up in the park for children to explore. Picture opportunities will abound to “Make A Memory” and donated cookies and drinks will be served.
Opportunities to buy bricks, which can be inscribed with dedications, will be available for purchase through the “Make A Memory” brick sale and later find their permanent home on the walkways in the park.
Furthermore, if you and your neighbors are interested in strengthening your organization or starting your own, you may want to attend to the Pigeon Point Association meetings at the Planning Department’s Conference Room on the main floor of City Hall.
CITY OF BEAUFORT ACTIVITIES
Bladen and North Street Redevelopment
After years of planning, phase II of Bladen Street Redevelopment is under way. This means new and wider sidewalks, burying utilities, tree scape, new paving, additional on street parking and cross walks making the area more pedestrian friendly. Once Bladen is completed, SCDOT will transform the block of North Street, between Bladen and Adventure, one way going west, paving it with brick (as it used to be before the old brick was covered by asphalt), underground utilities, a wider sidewalk and an expansion of “Horse Trough Park” making it a neighborhood destination, with additional parking and safer better marked cross walks.
Thanks to Paul Michaud and Peter and Terry Hussey, who live in The Point neighborhood, for taking the initiative to launch a volunteer drive Beautify Beaufort Initiative which began by painting fire hydrants and cleaning street signs in the downtown area. I am hopeful that the other neighborhoods participating in the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Team will embrace this initiative so it can become city wide.
More Parking on Carteret Street
With a few more long-awaited approvals from SCDOT, the city will be outlining additional parking spaces on Carteret Street. Pending approval for encroachment on the street, I believe there will be at least seven additional parking spaces between Bay and King streets.
Boundary Street Redevelopment
After years in planning, the engineers are completing the plan for Highway 21 (now 21 Business) Redevelopment from a newly configured intersection of S.C. 170 and Boundary Street to City Hall including several blocks of a parallel road north of Boundary. The project includes burying overhead utility lines, a multi-modal path along the water side of Boundary, the redevelopment of a traditional shopping center into a grid which will allow for a more walkable, safer and denser mixed use area of the city. Planted medians and other traffic calming effects will be central to the project.
Highway 21/Highway 21 Business
After more than eight years, the long-awaited resignation of Highway 21 around the city, with 21 Business going through the city, is in place. SCDOT planted the new signs within the past two weeks and we are hoping that mapping and GPS systems will pick this up so that those going to the islands will not get caught in downtown congestion while those seeking Beaufort as their destination will also find it easier to get into town due to reduced congestion.
The City Council and City Redevelopment Commission had our respective annual retreats (at USCB Historic Campus on Carteret Street) in February. The mission for both was to transition from planning to doing. With the majority of the civic master plan completed, it is time to start marketing the revitalization of the greater downtown area to property owners, investors and developers under the soon-to-be-adopted form-based code which should make the development process more predictable and hopefully more streamlined while still protecting the historic and cultural character which make Beaufort so special.
As “the rubber hits the road” there will be necessary conversations among neighbors, adjoining property owners, planners and regulators on how to best accomplish this noble challenge of revitalizing our city. Please join in the conversation as we seek to make changes and do us a favor by maintaining civility in our conversations as we learn new ways of doing things.
As those who have followed the conversation about marketing Beaufort and the allocation of tourism dollars generated by the Accommodations Tax know, City Council has been working on ways to make sure the dollars are used most efficiently, in a coordinated manner and focused on the same goals for building our city into what it can be. Given we are too small to be simply a tourism destination, and the fact that many who do not want us to be such, we are asking questions about what is it that we should actually marketing. Are we trying to attract new residents? Are we reaching out to find investment to fund some of the exciting concepts outlined in the Civic Master Plan? Do we consider recruiting businesses, which will provide better opportunities for those who grow up here and more here? Should the number of heads in beds, tour bus visits, carriage rides and seats filled in restaurants be the sole indicator of the kind of growth we are seeking? These are important questions we need to be considering. Accordingly, we convened a marketing summit last month which included not only the usual suspects but the marketers of new communities, nature based tourism businesses including boating, fishing, kayaking, golf and tennis to the table along with residential home builders, economic developers and the broader business community. The goal is to give our marketers are clearer set of criteria for the investment of public dollars with a meaningful set of metrics by which we can measure our collective success.