Beaufort residents imagine a creative future for downtown

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Beaufort residents imagine a creative future for downtown

By JULIANN VACHON
jvachon@beaufortgazette.com
843-706-8184
Published Tuesday, March 29, 2011   |  491 Words  |  

Residents got a glimpse Monday at the results of a three-month mental exercise to visualize downtown Beaufort's future.

The Office of Civic Investment studied the city's genetics, gathered public input and prodded people's creativity regarding the city's growth. They came up with everything from simple building design upgrades to total transformations of strategic intersections and streets, a multi-level parking garage downtown and expanding the University of South Carolina Beaufort down Boundary Street.

A team of more than 25 professionals and students then dove into an intensive week-long design workshop where they sketched, drafted and mapped those ideas into a comprehensive vision.

That workshop wrapped up Monday with a final presentation at City Hall.

More than 80 people came out to see the results for areas east of Ribaut Road, including downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

"Nothing you're going to see tonight is concrete," Mayor Billy Keyserling told the crowd. "We're not going to take away somebody's building and knock it down. ... What we're trying to do is (create) a clear set of expectations."

Demetri Baches, a planning consultant and co-director of the Office of Civic Investment, delivered much of Monday's presentation.

One recommendation was to convert the downtown marina parking lot into a park with commercial and residential development nearby.

A new parking garage on Port Republic Street -- hidden by businesses and residential developments -- would help make up for lost parking spaces.

The designs also called for a new square at Charles and Bay streets anchored by a multi-level building.

Boundary Street would go from four lanes to two, with buildings sitting closer to the road.

Dwayne Smalley, a resident and leader of the Northwest Quadrant neighborhood association, said USCB's possible expansion interests him the most.

"I think that has the potential to really impact the surrounding neighborhood," Smalley said. "I'm going to tell residents to prepare for change because the expansion is coming."

Baches also showed sketches of a proposed boardwalk at the water level along the bluff on Bay Street, a neighborhood design for the Whitehall Plantation property on Lady's Island, a bus route and walking and biking paths, among other things.

Sandra Kluttz, a resident of The Point, said the planners appeared to be in tune with things residents typically desire -- efficient transportation networks, walkability, curb appeal and a sense of place.

"I'm definitely impressed," Kluttz said. "I think what you're seeing in the room tonight are people really caring about their town and its future."

The office plans to have a master plan for sector one in April that's ready to go through a public review process, said Josh Martin, a consultant working on the project.

The sector one plan is one of five that together will cover the entire city.