but this is not just for tourists,” Coleman added. “A lot of
people who live here get around on foot.”
Walkability was already a local concern well before the
NAR grant became available. Johnson said there was a
committee in place to address walkability and bikeabilty
issues throughout the city, but particularly along King’s
Highway. When he learned that NAR was considering
offering a pilot program on walkability to local associations,
he immediately asked that Myrtle Beach be considered.
“I’m really surprised that other government affairs directors
have not pursued this grant opportunity,” Johnson said.
“More and more communities are trying to reach out to
millennials through walkability initiatives in downtown
areas. There are great opportunities to increase the tax base
for cities by making downtown more accessible.”
Myrtle Beach’s interest goes beyond providing a more
appealing environment for its residents. Tourism is the
main industry in the Grand Strand area — a 60-mile arc of
beaches between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal
Waterway. Myrtle Beach anchors the Grand Strand,
which drew almost 18 million visitors in 2016, accord-
ing to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Myrtle Beach has 29,000 permanent residents, and some
200,000 to 250,000 tourists come to the area weekly,
Johnson noted. Those visitors flock to the oceanfront
boardwalk, the Ferris wheel, coffee shops, restaurants,
amusement parks and musical shows near the Atlantic
Ocean. But the runners, walkers and bikers who frequent
Ocean Boulevard are scarcer downtown.
The Ocean Boulevard improvements accompanied the
redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force
Base property, a 4,000-acre military base that closed
in 1993. Some 114 acres at the base were redeveloped
as Market Commons. The project was conceived as an
urban village, Coleman said, featuring a town center
area surrounded by different types of residential districts.
“Everything there is walkable and bikeable,” she added.
“City leaders have seen that people really do respond
to this approach.”
However, she continued, “The problem we see is that other
parts of the city haven’t seen the same opportunities.”
The challenge is most acute in the older part of the city
where Myrtle Beach originated — where Kings Highway “divides the town like the Mississippi River,” as one
resident put it.
Coleman added, “We’re hoping to find a way not necessarily to replicate the success of Market Commons,
but to recreate the downtown area so it would have the
The NAR grant offered a perfect opportunity to focus
on revamping downtown Myrtle Beach, Johnson said.
Once he got approval to apply for the grant, he went to
the Planning Department to see if they were interested.
When they saw Dan Burden was one of the people who
would come, they jumped at the chance.
Burden is co-founder of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute and currently a director of Blue Zones
LLC, a community well-being improvement initiative.
Coleman said she and several of her staff had previously
heard Burden speak at national planners’ conferences,
More and more communities are trying to reach out to millennials
through walkability initiatives in downtown areas.
Photo by Myrtle Beach TheDigitel5