It seemed like a swell idea in 2006: Tear down the Pavilion arcade and amusement park and build condos and boutiques.
The location, Ninth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, has always been the heart of Myrtle Beach, but as the town sprawled inland and along the coast, attractions farther away siphoned off the cream of the tourist trade; storefronts near the Pavilion increasingly looked worse for wear; trendy people opted to spend time and money instead at Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing.
Thing is, a variety of factors kept the replacement development from ever happening. This 11-acre site just a block from the beach has remained a vacant, grass-covered lot.
To bring locals and tourists back downtown, a long-languishing project kicked into high gear: Build a beach-side boardwalk. It made perfect sense. Myrtle Beach has a history of re-inventing itself – the late and lamented arcade building itself was actually the third Pavilion on the site.
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Shopping areas come and go; Hard Rock Park lasted only one season as a theme park; many of the mini-golf courses bit the dust. But the beach will always be there – and has attracted vacationers ever since the Seaside Inn opened for business in 1901. (That site, appropriately, later housed the various Pavilions.)
And up in Virginia Beach, Va., a free-to-stroll 3-mile boardwalk along the oceanfront was instrumental in reviving that city’s sagging fortunes.
After a year of hustle and construction, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is opening this spring – a $6 million project that runs from the 14th Avenue Pier to the Second Avenue Pier. Its predominant look will be old-school: Southern pine planking, mostly, lighted by street lamps of vintage design.
Its midsection, between the Pavilion site and Plyler Park, has been built wider – up to 50 feet across – as a magnet and anchor to be edged with restaurants and shops. There will be sidewalk cafes. Ocean Boulevard merchants that back up to the boardwalk are being encouraged to install back entrances for the public.
The summer-long launch is studded with free events. There will be free Saturday concerts at Plyler Park, street performances, and a carnival area for kids on Mondays. Fireworks will be shot every Wednesday and Saturday evening from the Second Avenue Pier.
Time to start planning that trip. (www.visitmyrtlebeach.com)