Kristen St. Pierre is rare among Myrtle Beach’s residents.
A landscape designer at architecture firm SGA|NW, her apartment is located a staircase above the Broadway Street office — putting her in the heart of a downtown district that’s evolving before her eyes.
“I love it. I’m really excited with everything that’s up and coming here,” St. Pierre said. “I just moved here from Chicago where everything’s walkable. Grocery store, transportation, entertainment. So living here knowing it was going to be different, it was definitely important to have some walkability to some amenities.”
The city’s planned arts and culture hub spanning Broadway, Oak, Main streets and 9th Ave N. includes space for mixed-income housing —a well-documented challenge across South Carolina that continues to vex its fastest growing regions.
St. Pierre’s apartment is a few blocks from the area, but she’s one of the few residents living downtown.
“Workforce housing, affordable housing is not a Myrtle Beach problem, it is a national problem,” assistant city manager Brian Tucker said during a Feb. 2 city council meeting. “It is probably worse in Myrtle Beach than in a lot of municipalities around the state, but this is a common issue trying to be tackled.”
Officials have set a goal to build 5,670 new housing units — about half being rentals — through 2033 and recently inked a first-of-its kind deal with Habitat for Humanity of Horry County.
The agency will spend the next 18 months developing a workforce housing program expected to include the creation of a local trust fund to encourage residential construction.
“If we want to attract young people to come here, they don’t always want to live in a neighborhood or subdivision,” Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “They want that downtown, urban feel and we need to have those places.”
Among the arts and innovation district’s half-dozen planning strategies is spurring mixed-use development that can return some of the city’s empty spaces back into use.
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan said that’s a key factor as the city looks to modernize.
With the aviation, healthcare and technology sectors growing locally, Riordan believes the city is moving in the right direction when it comes to recruiting a younger, year-round population and making sure they have places to live.
“I think if we keep working hard on that and create a tipping point where we’ve got some scale in terms of the number people here, than it become a very fast word-of-mouth thing,” Riordan said. “That’s why we need to put so much energy into next five to ten years.”