The results of a six-month study into the viability of a new conference center in the northern section of Beaufort County show it would be a money-losing enterprise, according to a presentation Tuesday by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Including initial construction costs and anticipated annual operating losses, it would end up costing about $14.4 million over a 50-year period, according to the study by PKF Consulting.
No immediate plans for a conference center are in the works, but chamber officials have considered the idea for more than six years as a way to boost tourism to the area.
In other businesses, council:
With a federal grant of $12.6 million in hand, work on plans to give one of the main arteries into the city of Beaufort a facelift could begin this summer.
Boundary Street will be rerouted and redesigned under a $30-million plan that city officials have been preparing for more than a year.
The city has about $13.7 million in matching local funds for the project and the grant money will go toward some of the initial work. That includes improving intersections and rights-of-way purchases. Officials are investigating other ways to finance the remaining costs.
The city requested $21 million in federal stimulus funds, City Manager Scott Dadson said, but officials were thrilled Tuesday with the amount awarded.
The project is still contingent on approval of permits from the state since Boundary is a state-owned road. Permit requests were submitted about a year ago, and Dadson said he hoped they would be approved early next year.
At that point, the project would go out for bid. Work would begin at the intersection of Boundary Street and Robert Smalls Parkway. Robert Smalls is to be rerouted so it meets Boundary at about a 90-degree angle, instead of at a slant.
Preliminary designs show a corridor into Beaufort that better accommodates foot, bicycle and other alternative means of transportation, in addition to vehicles.
Plans also link up with a county plan to convert an abandoned railroad into a walking and biking path called the Spanish Moss Rail Trail.
"The Boundary Street Redevelopment District is the transformational project that will help re-shape the entrance to Beaufort for decades and create the best future for business and residential opportunities," Redevelopment Commission Chairman Jon Verity said in a release.
A financial impact study shows the redevelopment of the road could bring in $5 in benefits for every $1 spent, according to Dadson.
This first phase of the project will cover construction to Ribaut Road. Planning is under way for a second phase of the project.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.