NOV 2012: MAYORS
Author: Drew Laughlin and Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Drew Laughlin (Hilton Head Island)
USCB at Coligny
The Town of Hilton Head Island recently completed a financial feasibility and economic analysis of two concept plans for the Coligny Beach/Pope Avenue area. One overriding theme of this analysis was that the town should move to install public infrastructure improvements in the district through the use of current Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds. The report also indicated that from a financial standpoint, there is little reason for the town to subsidize redevelopment of viable existing commercial enterprise or install public improvements that are aimed primarily to subsidize or support those commercial enterprises. Keeping this in mind as well as the time sensitive nature of the TIF moneys available for this project, staff developed a proposed plan which would serve as a foundation for improvements in this area. These improvements focus on creating:
Improved parking and green/open space on town-owned property;
Enhancements to streets adjacent to this town-owned property and establishing a presence for USCB’s Hospitality programs on the island;
Storm water and other public improvements; and
Other opportunities to work with surrounding property owners in the future.
The proposed concept does not preclude additional partnership opportunities but would serve as a foundation to get improvements started in this area. With this in mind, the town has identified a concept plan that outlines public sector improvements aimed at delivering high quality public amenities in the district that will serve both residents and guest and provide an environment that catalyzes private sector investments.
Let’s focus on the possibility of a USCB presence on Pope Avenue. Locating the USCB’s Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute accomplishes a number of things. First, USCB’s presence addresses a desire to maintain year-round activity in the area. Second, a year-round presence means local businesses prosper, apartments are filled, and a vibrant feeling is maintained. Third, given our resident population’s education level, interest level, and activity level, Osher will go a long way in satisfying our appetite for intellectual stimulation. Imagine the various seminars and cultural speakers that will be offered to residents. Fourth, having hospitality training on island fits the need of our number one industry. Fifth, given USCB’s return on investment at its Gateway Campus, jobs will be created here. Sixth, mutually beneficial marketing would occur. Finally, the list could go on and on, but a USCB presence will directly and positively impact our economy, will offer opportunities for residents and visitors, and will help our hospitality, tourism, building, retail, and rental industries.
At this point, a USCB presence on Pope Avenue is a concept we are seriously contemplating and have been working on closely with Chancellor.
Lisa Sulka (Bluffton)
Streetscape Project Connecting our Neighborhoods
The “Tom Herbkersman Commons” is the latest portion of the May River/Bruin Roads streetscape to be completed and is intended to be a gathering place for citizens and visitors. This beautiful plaza includes a map of Old Town in brick pavers, a sitting wall, benches and a rain garden. Other items constructed during this phase of streetscape include sidewalks on Bruin Road, additional benches, trash cans, irrigation and tree wells. Landscaping of the four corners at May River Road and Bluffton Road is also a part of this project as well as the planting of over 75 trees. Along with streetlights installed last fall, this work completes the last of the major projects on Bruin and May River Road up to Pin Oak Street.
The next phase of construction will occur west of Pin Oak Street and is planned to include on-street parking and sidewalks in keeping with the completed section. The parking and sidewalk improvements are designed to extend from Pin Oak to Whispering Pines. Additional sidewalk on the northern side of May River Road from Whispering Pines to Buck Island Road is designed for more pedestrian access. This work will provide pedestrian connectivity from the Buck Island/Simmonsville neighborhood all the way to Old Town.
The streetscape project originated from our Old Town Master Plan. The intent was to improve pedestrian access and safety. The design included the on-street parking which provides parking for Old Town where the need is significant and aids in pedestrian safety, acting as a barrier between the travel lanes and the sidewalks. It also acts to calm traffic as drivers slow when there are obstacles near the travel lanes.
In addition to improving pedestrian safety, aesthetics are considered. Tree planting is designed to enhance the canopy over the street and restore its historic nature. Many of the trees are flowering trees as well and will add seasonal color.
On September 13, 2012, the Hilton Head Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, town leaders, citizens and staff met at the recently completed “Tom Herbkersman Commons” at the corner of May River and Bluffton Roads. This event officially opened the Chamber’s local office and the Commons.
Our streetscape project has provided a gathering place, parking, pedestrian safety and accessibility as well as areas to stop, rest and enjoy the charm of the Old Town atmosphere. The project has also provided the opportunity to enhance the beauty and preserve the historic qualities of this part of Old Town Bluffton..