City of Beaufort starts process to spur economic development at park, marina

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To gauge private developers’ interest in redeveloping Beaufort’s Downtown Marina parking lot and surrounding areas, to boost economic activity and improve access to the water, the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission will seek letters of interest from local, regional and national development groups over the next 60 days.

The Redevelopment Commission will evaluate responses with the intent of selecting one or more developers to further discuss a potential project, Commission Chairman Jon Verity said.

“Everything we do will follow the normal processes for development review, historic review board oversight, permitting, everything. Any proposed redevelopment project will naturally be guided by the Civic Master Plan and market conditions,” he said.

“We anticipate a great deal of public interest and public involvement in this process and it’s going to take eight or 10 months, maybe longer,” Verity said.

The idea, he said, is to attract new development that will create synergy with the surrounding uses and add to the positive momentum, including recent private investments downtown.

The Redevelopment Commission is focusing its attention on the potential upgrade of the City-owned marina parking lot.  The City is seeking private sector development investment for the project.   Developers will be asked to present their ideas on how to redevelop the property, which could involve the sale of land or a lease arrangement, Verity said.

Recent public comments during the amendment of the Beaufort Civic Master Plan indicate solid public support for progress in the west end of downtown, said Alan Dechovitz, project chairman for the Redevelopment Commission.

Merchants are optimistic that a project on the marina site can bring new visitors who not only shop, but also purchase, in downtown shops and restaurants.  As discussions move forward about redeveloping the marina parking lot, Dechovitz and Verity said they anticipate continued discussions about expanding and improving parking options throughout downtown.

“The city and the Redevelopment Commission are very mindful that redevelopment of such a prominent site must be of a scale and character with the existing downtown, have a high probability of long-term financial success, and address both the public’s interests and concerns,” Verity said.

“Our interest is enhancing downtown, enhancing the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, and making the most of what we have.,” he said.

Ideas already pitched favorably to the Beaufort City Council include a privately-funded water sports center for kayaking and rowing, relocated marina buildings, and a new daydock to attract more boaters to visit downtown.