The time has come for the Town of Hilton Head Island to see how much bang it gets for its buck out of proposed improvements at its south end, its mayor says.
Redeveloping Hilton Head's Coligny area has long been a priority for the town, which faces a December 2014 deadline to commit an estimated $13 million captured from a tax-increment finance district to parks, roads, pathways, boardwalks, parking, drainage and landscaping.
On Wednesday, the town requested bids for an economic impact and feasibility study for a new commercial district at Coligny.
Mayor Drew Laughlin said council hopes the study will be completed by April so it can be used to help decide how best to use TIF proceeds to spur redevelopment and private investment in the area. Town staff in May proposed using $6.3 million for Coligny, but actual costs are likely to be significantly more.
"I think we have enough time, but I don't think we have a lot of time to waste. ... There is a sense of urgency," Laughlin said Thursday of using the tax dollars.
Increased property tax collections that are a result of rising property values in the district have been set aside in a separate fund since 1999. The money has paid to build parks, improve roads, extend sewer and other uses in the non-contiguous district, which encompasses Coligny and Sea Pines circles, Pope Avenue, Palmetto Bay Road, Mathews Drive and portions of the Stoney and Chaplin neighborhoods.
After 2014, that "increment" will return to the town's general fund and to Beaufort County, the Beaufort County School District and Hilton Head Island No. 1 Public Service District, which agreed to participate in the TIF by forgoing their shares of the increment.
Wood and Partners Inc. created plans for Coligny Plaza owner J.R. Richardson that call for redeveloping a mix of town land, private holdings in Heritage and Coligny plazas, and other property. Plans shown to the Town Council on council Nov. 15 include a hotel, parking garages, new park and new plazas with outdoor cafes, shops and restaurants. Condominiums and/or apartments would occupy a second story above the retail space.
Another, scaled-back plan prepared for the owner of Heritage Plaza focuses improvements to town-owned land, but includes many of the same features.
The exact mix of uses on town- and privately-owned property has not been determined. One of the primary purposes for the two studies is to determine which -- if any -- of the plans under consideration best justifies use of town money, Laughlin said.
A consultant would estimate construction costs, identify funding and financing options, and gauge market demand. It also would estimate the return that results from new tax revenues, increased property values, job creation, higher hotel occupancy and visitor spending.
"We are very excited and pleased to see the town has been such a strong supporter of revitalization in the Coligny district and The Mall at Shelter Cove," Mark Baker of Wood and Partners said. "... It's like throwing a pebble in the pond. There are ripples that come out from that. We see Coligny and Shelter Cove as centers of activity that create economic well-being" for the entire island.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.