What do we want Beaufort to look like?

mlutz@historicbeaufort.orgMay 11, 2014 

What's to happen now after the apparent termination of Beaufort City Council's and the Redevelopment Commission's signature project at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park/Marina Parking Lot? How is an investment in infill in the National Historic Landmark District, which the city apparently wants, to redeem the downtown from what the council describes as a loser in the city's economy?

Historic Beaufort Foundation played a pivotal and important advocacy role for two years in this discussion and is perceived to have added, positively, to the conversation. This is a significant perception of HBF as an organization that understands preservation and economic development and not as naysayers to development that some on the council have tried to label it.

HBF achieved a goal of educating the public and providing informed decision-making with persistence and focus of maintaining Beaufort's sense of place. We hope we added some new words to the daily jargon as we have repeated (for years) phrases such as height mass and scale, historically and architecturally appropriate, to protect and enhance the natural and built landscape, the character that is the real Beaufort, the integrity of setting, design and materials and protection of the feelings and associations that reflect Beaufort's uniqueness

There are more questions:

Why does the city say the downtown is not paying for itself? Where did that concept come from? We did not know that each part of the city must pay for itself. What does the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism say about the impact of tourism dollars spent region-wide in downtown Beaufort as well as hotels outside the core commercial area?

The economic basis leading to that statement that downtown does not pay for itself should be questioned. Is the Commerce Park expected to support non tax-paying institutions, schools, churches, organizations too? Is there economic value in the non-taxable USCB and the Technical College of the Lowcountry?

The city may say that the dissolution of the waterfront/marina proposal is not a blemish on the entire Civic Master Plan but we think that every proposal in the plan needs further consideration before implemented -- just like the marina proposal. We have said all along that the plan is flawed and now the general population sees serious problems, not just the few who were disparaged for attending every meeting to question it since it was presented to the public.

There needs to be infill projects designed to enhance the historic character but not compromise the historic integrity of the district; a project that uses traditional zoning with a nod to form-based code concepts. What type of new construction is best for the Landmark District? What and how to design infill that meets the future without overwhelming the past?

Questions should continue to be raised about the need for a form-based zoning code. Is the New Urbanists' approach in community planning out of touch with Beaufort? A good example of a bad idea is the one-purpose-built Olive Garden/Red Lobster and its recent closing. We cannot tolerate more throw-away buildings.

Should we support a use and design of the Marina Parking Lot that capitalizes on the award winning Robert Marvin /Sasaki Associates plan for continuing to enhance the cultural and historic landscape? How can that be accomplished?

HBF wants to continue the discussion and public education/awareness process on numerous fronts. We stand ready to assist developers and others in meeting community objectives.

Maxine Lutz is the executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.

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