Beaufort News

New city of Beaufort office targets investment, redevelopment

The city of Beaufort announced Thursday it has reorganized its planning, zoning and code enforcement services into the new Office of Civic Investment -- a department that, along with day-to-day matters, will complete a city-wide civic master plan during the next two years that officials hope will stimulate investment and redevelopment.

The new office is located in City Hall and co-directed by two planning and architecture consultants -- Craig Lewis of The Lawrence Group and Demetri Baches of Metrocology -- hired by Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission last year to provide staff support and help carry out the city's 2009 Comprehensive Plan.

Lewis and Baches provide part-time assistance while Josh Martin, a planner brought in as a full-time staff member through the two-year contract, will manage projects and assist other city employees with planning, urban design and city building expertise.

Three others -- Lauren Kelly, Naomi Leeman and Scott Curry -- will provide the office part-time, professional assistance.

The office is considered one of four major city departments along with public services, public safety and administration, according to a news release.

"The long-term goal is make the development process more predictable and user-friendly," Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "This is a way to do it without full-time staff. This has an end to it, so we're not adding a layer of people we'll have to carry for years."

Although the Office of Civic Investment is new, the consultants spearheading have been on the ground for weeks.

Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission got an update Thursday on the consultants' work to date.

First on the office's list of projects -- an initiative announced last month that includes a lot-by-lot survey of historic downtown and other areas east of Ribaut Road including Pigeon Point, Uptown Beaufort, Whitehall and Higginsonville.

The team brought in University of Miami School of Architecture students to do the survey, complete with photos, block and lot dimensions, and detailed descriptions of the properties and any buildings on them along with other details.

The office will host various public workshops leading up to a week-long series of meetings March 22-29 to discuss details of the downtown-area sector plan.

The team expects to do the same in all areas of the city and create multiple neighborhood-level strategic plans that go lot-by-lot throughout Beaufort, culminating in a civic master plan.

Also in the works is a new Office of Civic Investment website that will provide an events calendar, interactive maps where developers and other interested parties can find details on specific properties and projects in the city, along with other resources.

The website has not been completed, Kelly said.

According to the news release, among other things, the Office of Civic Investment also will:

  • Do an inventory of needs for the improvement of existing neighborhood parks
  • Create specific recommendations for strategic community roads
  • Create a master plan for bikeways, green ways, sidewalks and trails
  • Create a comprehensive open space/green infrastructure plan
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