Public meeting set to discuss preliminary Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot development plans

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 6, 2014 

  • In other business, the commission:

    • Got an update on the land swap on King and Prince streets with The Baptist Church of Beaufort, part of a plan to develop properties by renovating a historic home and building three others. Stabilization of the Mulligan Grayson house is underway, and two lots have been sold for new homes.
    • Discussed funding possibilities for ongoing and future projects the commission may undertake.
    • Heard an update from Bridges Preparatory School board vice chairman Charlie Calvert on plans to expand its Boundary Street campus.
    • Discussed housing needs and initiatives, including potentially funding a new position to work with the Lowcountry Housing Trust and other agencies to get grants and coordinate multi-agency projects.

Developers will reveal what they're planning for the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot during a public meeting March 26.

That meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Beaufort City Council Chambers at City Hall, Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said.

Developers Jim Chaffin and Steve Navarro of Historic Marina Partners LLC are working on a final proposal to present to City Council. That proposal is due in May, according to the terms of their agreement with City Council and the commission.

"We want to have at least one public meeting at this stage, so there's an opportunity for someone to come if they want to ask questions," Verity said.

Developers are expected to have a description -- but provide no images -- of what they are considering.

Visuals will be created after gathering more public input, Chaffin has said.

Navarro and Chaffin have indicated they are leaning toward a mix-use development with residences or lodging as well as retail and restaurant space.

They've also indicated their plans will involve open public space. They are in discussions about swapping green space at Freedom Mall for green space elsewhere.

A separate developer is sorting out the input given last week by residents about a proposed parking garage on Port Republic Square.

Verity said he expects Structure Parking Solutions will return with a number of ideas and renderings in the next month or two.

"We're not just looking for one idea; we're looking for a couple of different options," he said.

While Structure Parking Solutions is working independently, representatives did meet with city staff, redevelopment commissioners and Historic Marina Partners during a visit last week.

"This (the parking garage) is certainly not being sponsored by the city," Verity said, "but we are a player in this moving forward, and we want to make sure this is a public process."

The garage would replace parking displaced by development at the marina and give downtown opportunities to grow and attract more visitors, commission member Alan Dechovitz said.

"If nothing changed, we probably wouldn't need a parking garage," he said. "... (but) if nothing were to change, ultimately downtown would continue to be economically challenged."

Commission member Mike McNally questioned whether an updated parking study should be done, and who should do it. In 2007, Main Street Beaufort, USA, commissioned a parking study by Atlanta-based Timothy Haahs and Associates.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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