With the dawn of a new year comes a new opportunity for public projects across the Lowcountry to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Town managers and leaders across Beaufort County have collaborated with local community members, business leaders, historians and designers to set the stage for a series of impactful projects in 2023. Bluffton is preserving a marker of its town history, Daufuskie is bringing restrooms to its beaches, and Hilton Head has plans to create affordable housing for future residents. Whichever slice of the Lowcountry feels most like home to you, local lawmakers and civil servants there are hard at work, doing all they can to make the past, present and future of the region a wonderful place to live, work and play.
Revamping an antebellum icon
THE REHABILITATION OF THE SQUIRE POPE CARRIAGE HOUSE
In 2023 the Town of Bluffton will embark on rehabilitating the Squire Pope Carriage House. Located on the Wright Family property on Calhoun Street, the building is one of Bluffton’s oldest historic structures, dating back to the 1850s, when it was built by William Pope Jr. as his summer residence. During the ‘Burning of Bluffton’ in the Civil War, the main building of Pope’s estate burned to the ground. Two outbuildings were left standing, which would be joined together in 1868, creating the structure we recognize today. Over a century and a half later, Bluffton is working to create its second public park with access to the May River. The projected restoration will be reminiscent of the Town’s Garvin-Garvey House rehabilitation at the nearby Oyster Factory Park. For this project, the Town recognizes the cultural and historical significance Squire Pope Carriage House carries and seeks to incorporate the community in determining how the space will be used. Director of Communication Debbie Szpanka points out the importance of this project. “The more the Town honors its past, the more Bluffton has a ‘sense of place,’ offering a unique experience for its residents and guests,” she said.
A haven for eco-fun
Known to some as the Mid-Island Tract, a Townowned section of the former Planters Row Golf Course, is 103 acres of lush green space in the center of Hilton Head Island. In 2023 the overgrown golf course will be turned into a public park and community gathering space celebrating Hilton Head’s natural history and ecosystems. According to Hilton Head’s former mayor, John McCann, “this park will serve the entire community, both residents and visitors, and will showcase our Island environment, culture, history and natural beauty.” Beyond the event spaces, playground and 18-hole disc golf course, the new park will host community gardens and feature opportunities for an open-air market. Visitors to the park will have plenty of opportunities to learn about the island’s ecology by reading about it in the eco-center, then encountering it along the boardwalk. “We had an engaging public process that allowed our residents and community stakeholders to share their ideas of what they would like to see in this park. Those ideas, coupled with the Town’s significant public investment into this project, have led to a robust and exciting plan. I am confident that this park will be a prized addition to our Island’s network of parks and recreation assets,” said Town Manager Marc Orlando.
A straight flush
BEACH ACCESS RESTROOMS
Daufuskie Island can be reached only by those willing to take the road less traveled (i.e. the ferry); and while a bridge is not in the cards for 2023, Daufuskie does have a number of projects in store for 2023. According to Roger Pickney, chair of Daufuskie’s Town Council, the next year will see the solidification of infrastructure all around the island, from ferry landings to roadways. The town recently secured funding for a multi-use community center that will offer a new community gathering point for residents. Pickney notes, however, “the most overdue and needed is public bathrooms at our major beach access point.” Daufuskie Island attracts visitors from all over the world, some of whom stay on the island for a few days and others who pop over for a few hours. Regardless of how long they are staying, visitors flock to Daufuskie’s beaches for panoramic views of the Atlantic. “Now that our yearly tourist tally is over 200,000 and many visitors go to the beach, the lack of facilities has become a public health/safety issue. The county has secured $250,000 in accommodations-tax funding for construction which seems particularly appropriate – tourists paying for their own bathrooms,” Pickney said.
A new road ahead
RESURFACING IN PORT ROYAL
Over the past few years Port Royal has had its tax base grow significantly as individuals and companies have invested in the area. Late in 2021 a $93 million apartment complex was sold, which has since bolstered tax revenue for the Town to reinvest in public projects. The Town budget for 2023 is over $1 million more than the previous fiscal year, reflecting an influx of investments to the area. According to Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis as quoted in the Island Packet, “Our goal is to resurface everything we own downtown that needs resurfacing. It’s been needed for years. This is our first chance to actually do it.” The project will focus on repaving roads and developing sidewalks to be accessible and widespread across Port Royal.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood
AFFORDABLE LIVING OPPORTUNITIES ON HILTON HEAD
While the exact start and end dates are undefined, Hilton Head has a project underway that will redefine sustainable, affordable living on the island. On the north end of the island, 12 acres of wooded land next to the post office will be developed into a neighborhood within walking distance of the Island Rec Center and public school campus. The proposed neighborhood is a part of the Town of Hilton Head’s Workforce and Affordable Housing Initiative, which recognizes the limited amount of affordable housing accessible to teachers, healthcare workers, restaurant employees and countless others whose contributions to the island’s services and businesses are essential. Hilton Head Town Manager Marc Orlando said, “we are continuing to make great strides toward our strategic goals for workforce and affordable housing.” By the end of 2022 the Town planned to sign a contract with a development partner. Thanks to a $995,000 budget funded through grants, the proposed neighborhood will be outfitted with infrastructure for roads, water, sewer and other utilities.