Conceptual plans unveiled for new commercial village on Hilton Head

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Conceptual plans unveiled for new commercial village on Hilton Head

By TOM BARTON
tbarton@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, November 15, 2011   |  693 Words  |  

A 150-room hotel and nine-acre park with lagoon were the focal point of a conceptual plan unveiled Tuesday to create a new village center on Hilton Head Island.

Town Council heard a presentation by Mark Baker of plans prepared by Wood + Partners Inc. on behalf of J.R. Richardson, owner of Coligny Plaza.

Richardson hired consultants last spring for a two-day design and planning session with town staff and council members. Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga., owners of Heritage Plaza, also brought in architects to sketch scenarios for the village center concept.

Each have submitted plans to the town, but Baker on Tuesday called the drawing presented to council "a consensus plan" between the two.

Neither Richardson, whom Baker said was out of town, nor representatives for Blanchard & Calhoun were at the meeting.

The plan, similar to a town staff proposal last December, uses a mix of town land and private holdings in Heritage and Coligny plazas to turn the area into a park-like setting, with plazas interspersed between outdoor cafes, shops and restaurants with condos and apartments above.

"People love the pedestrian scale and small commercial plazas, kiosks and gazebos of the Coligny area," Baker told council. "J.R. really wanted to keep that walkable, pedestrian commercial village."

The plan nixes a previous town proposal to divert Pope Avenue around a quarter-mile stretch of park in favor of using a new roundabout and narrower roadway to slow traffic through the area, and adding on-street parking, crosswalks and improved leisure pathways.

The new plan also calls for extending Lagoon Road south of Pope Avenue and creating a side street on either side of Pope Avenue that connects Lagoon to South Forest Beach and North Forest Beach Drives.

"We believe the improved street patterns will enhance circulation through the area," Baker said.

The plans also call for placing a hotel and parking garage at the southwest corner of Coligny Circle, which would be turned into a green entryway to the beach.

Baker asked the town to hire a financial planner to prepare a economic impact study, cost assessment and strategy for establishing a public-private partnership to pursue redevelopment.

Mayor Drew Laughlin said council will discuss the plan at its upcoming workshop the first week of December when it outlines priorities for next year.

"I don't know that I've seen a plan yet where I like everything, but this plan, along with others, has a lot of good features," Laughlin said after the meeting. "We need to start getting these plans into the public domain so people can start reacting to them. ... There is a sense of urgency that grows daily. But, if we can get to the point where we know conceptually where we are going with this, then we can start implementing pieces of it."

Redeveloping the area has been a top priority for years. The town faces a December 2014 deadline to commit millions of dollars collected for improvements in a special tax district as a way to breathe new life into the area.

Redevelopment of the beach park has produced more and better public space, but not enough to create the walking district the area is zoned to become, town staff and council members have said.

More needs to be done to increase pedestrian safety and their access to the beach and nearby shops, town manager Steve Riley said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

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