Downtown Beaufort retail study seeks community participants

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJune 1, 2014 

  • If you go:

    A Downtown Beaufort Market Analysis roundtable series has been scheduled by Main Street Beaufort, USA, and consultants Arnett Muldrow & Associates. Meetings are targeted to specific groups, but anyone can attend. Unless otherwise noted, all meetings are in the first floor meeting room of the Beaufort library, 311 Scott St.

    June 10

    • 10:30 a.m., Historic Beaufort Foundation
    • 1:30 p.m., media
    • 3 p.m., tourism
    • 5:15 p.m., downtown merchants

    June 11

    • 9 a.m., arts (meeting room of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, 701 Craven St.)
    • 5:15 p.m., public input and preliminary online survey results

A Beaufort organization wants to know what residents, business owners and visitors think about the downtown economy.

Main Street Beaufort, USA, is heading a 12-week marketing study, with help from city officials and community groups. Arnett Muldrow & Associates Ltd., a Greenville firm that worked with Main Street on a branding project a year and a half ago, is conducting the research and compiling the report.

The $12,500 project is being paid for with Main Street's share of proceeds from city parking, the organization's executive director, LaNelle Fabian, said.

Work began in early May with a survey in which 50 businesses collected zip codes from people either at the point of sale or as they entered stores, Fabian said. Those results have been sent to Arnett Muldrow.

About 800 people also have participated in an online survey, which ended Saturday and asked about shopping habits and preferences, parking and what businesses would fit well downtown.

"This is perfect timing, with everything that's happened recently, for people to express an opinion," Fabian said, referring to a recent proposal to redevelop the Downtown Beaufort Marina parking lot that stirred opposition. "Basically, this is coming on the heels of that. That's not why we're doing it, but the timing worked out well because the community might not have felt they were involved in the process, and we're making sure they feel involved."

Roundtable meetings and one-on-one interviews to gather more information are planned for June 10-12.

City Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity, who is on a steering committee for the study, said he is optimistic the results will help find ways to revitalize businesses.

"This might be a chance to see what would work downtown and benefit all of Beaufort," he said.

After research concludes, Arnett Muldrow will create a retail strategy for Main Street and city officials to use to decide future steps, Fabian said. Businesses that participated in the zip code study will also receive individual reports.

"We are not going to just get a report and an invoice," Fabian said. "We will get an implementation strategy, which will be very helpful. ... Otherwise, this would be a report that ended up on a shelf like so many others."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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