City: 2016 was year of progress for Beaufort

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Editor’s note: The following was provided by the city of Beaufort.

From opening a new fire station to kicking off construction on Boundary Street to opening the long-awaited Southside dog park to launching an incubator for technology companies, progress was the key word for Beaufort in 2016.

“After months and sometimes years of planning and review, it was refreshing to be able to open the new fire house on Ribaut Road to improve our fire department’s efficiency. On the other end, in December it was great to see all the families and pets enjoying the dog park,” Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop said.

“We have another year of work on Boundary Street, but that team has done an exceptional job of keeping the project on track and within budget,” he said. “While that work goes on, our city’s economy has a brighter future with our new incubator partnerships.”

The economy

Much of the city’s work in 2016 – and before – focused on economic revitalization and growth.

The Beaufort Digital Corridor is an offshoot of the successful Charleston Digital Corridor. Located at 500 Carteret St., the remodeled office space targets small businesses focused on technology.

Another spinoff is the city’s branch of the Don Ryan Center of Innovation, based in Bluffton. The incubator will be housed in the first floor of Beaufort City Hall and will assist non-technology businesses in starting up.

Both business incubators have ribbon-cuttings scheduled for January and Prokop said he expects both will be busy in short order.

“Between our preserved history and our protected environment, we have the ability to attract small and new businesses, especially those in the knowledge sector,” he said. “Sometimes all they need is a guiding hand to get started, and that’s what the Beaufort Digital Corridor and Don Ryan Center will provide.”

The anticipated opening of the new Walmart within the city limits on Lady’s Island and a new car dealership on Robert Smalls Parkway will bring additional jobs and revenues to the city.

Highlights of 2016 include:

• Construction started in early 2016 on the $32 million Boundary Street Improvement Corridor. The work includes moving overhead power and communications cables underground for safety and aesthetics, realigning the Boundary and Robert Smalls Parkway intersection and improving traffic signal intersections, including a new signal at Carolina Cove.

• The Southside dog park, previously used as a water treatment site by the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, had been discussed for years by the community and the Beaufort City Council. In 2016, it became reality.

“We had a lot of volunteer help in cleaning up the property, and our Public Works crew did wonderful work removing all the debris and tearing up old asphalt,” said Libby Anderson, planning director for Beaufort. “Open park space is an important part of Beaufort.”

• Other highlights for city leaders in 2016 included expanding the popular Spanish Moss Trail; reviewing, once again, parking needs and possible solutions, including a potential parking garage; and adjusting the city business license ordinance to allow a more streamlined process for group events, and taking payments online for business licenses and the accommodations/hospitality taxes.

• Beaufort voters returned incumbent Mike McFee to the Beaufort City Council alongside newcomer and downtown businesswoman Nan Sutton. They join Mayor Billy Keyserling, Phil Cromer and Stephen Murray on council.

• In December, city leaders joined Rep. Jim Clyburn and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis at historic Brick Baptist Church across from the Penn Center for a standing-room only public hearing of major support for a proposed Reconstruction Monument district to recognize local contributions to Reconstruction.

• On the tragic side, fire destroyed the Black Chamber of Commerce office building just days after the November election. The structure was nearing completion on Bladen Street. Federal investigators determined the fire was an electrical accident.

• In October, Hurricane Matthew changed the Lowcountry landscape, downing thousands of trees. Homes in Beaufort were damaged and the debris clean-up will continue into 2017, but thankfully no deaths or major injuries were reported from the Category 2 hurricane.

For more information about the city of Beaufort, visit www.cityofbeaufort.org.