‘Exchange fear for trust’: Sitting down with the developers of the marina parking lot

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By Pamela Brownstein

When it comes to change in Beaufort, there is often resistance. It’s a natural response, considering so much of what makes our city wonderful is its historic beauty and dedication to preservation.

The two men selected by the city to develop the downtown marina parking lot are keenly aware of this resistance and want to begin the process of engaging the community and gathering input about what would be best for that site.

Jim Chaffin, of Beaufort, and Steve Navarro, of Greenville, are working together on this project and want the public to know that they have no set plans and want to create a sense of place that enhances and improves the already existing surroundings.

“We have a sincere understanding that people have been used to seeing a parking lot. Our goal is to listen to the citizens of the community and to ask them, What do you think will be additive and complementary to the downtown experience?” explained Jim.

The two have made a point to meet with different groups such as neighborhood organizations, the Open Land Trust and Historic Beaufort Foundation, just to name a few. Steve said they are very interested in hearing from more people and that everyone has a voice when it comes to providing ideas for a positive contribution to our city.

“Change very often equals fear of the unknown. We are asking the community exchange fear for trust,” Steve said.

“We want people to answer ‘what if?’ and ‘what could you imagine?’ and ‘what do you want to see downtown?’” Steve said.

Jim discussed a mixed-use site that could possibly offer commercial, retail, hospitality and residential space. He said there is a lot of talk about the need for tourism, but equally important is reinvigorating downtown and creating a sense of place that will attract locals too.

“It’s like a three-legged stool, providing balance between historic authenticity, community livability and economic viability,” Jim described.

Both are aware of the issues surrounding development including parking, displacing companies, environmental concerns, but they hope the opposing viewpoints can come to a consensus of intention and agree on a plan that becomes part of the charm of our 300-year-old community.

“We hope to act as a catalyst and create an example of a delightful urban experience,” said Steve.