Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Several of the merchants who own businesses that survived the Sept. 25 fire in the 700 block of Front Street got together Monday evening to begin strategizing plans for the future.
The meeting was closed to the media but after it was over Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce president Brian Tucker talked about what took place.
Tucker said the merchants wanted to get together to talk about ways “they can rally around each other” as their block undergoes the rebuilding process.
He said the main goal amongst the merchants is to “keep up the positive energy” that has been created in the wake of the fire that destroyed seven buildings that housed ten businesses.
The upcoming holiday season was one of the things discussed by the merchants.
“They talked about how to put together holiday season events to draw attention to the area,” Tucker said.
The idea, Tucker said, is to get as many businesses as possible on Front Street involved with many of the proposed plans.
One of the issues discussed was parking in the 700 block.
“They want to find ways to minimize the impact” of the reduced number of parking spaces because of the fire,” Tucker said.
Right now, nearly two dozen parking spaces cannot be used because they are blocked by a fence securing the fire scene.
He said he feels it was a positive meeting.
“There was a lot of positive energy and determination in the room,” he said.
The city's Architectural Review Board announced Monday they will be meeting twice per month for the foreseeable future in order to help expedite the reconstruction process.
City Planner Rick Martin said one of the meetings each month will be a workshop format.
“This will help address many of the needs before the regular meetings. We are hoping the architects and engineers will be involved so everyone can get an idea about what the ARB is thinking.”
Martin said while it has been determined the business will not have to be elevated when they rebuild, the sidewalk in front of the buildings may be elevated.
That, he said, would help the property owners save money because they will not have to have as much flood prevention inside the stores to meet federal flood zone laws.
The elevated sidewalk, Martin said, “is just another option” being considered.
Martin said the guidelines for new construction in the Historic District will have to be studied thoroughly during the rebuilding process but he is hoping the new buildings will look as much as possible like the ones that were destroyed.
The goal, he said, is to rebuild in a manner that, five years from now, no one will be able to tell there had been a fire by looking at the 700 block.
The Front Street Fire Relief Fund was established within hours of the fire and the committee met for the first time Oct. 1.
The Distribution Committee decided that they would focus their efforts toward meeting the needs of three groups of impacted people — the residents, the business owners, and the employees of those businesses, said Sally Hogan of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.
So far, the fund has collected over $65,000 in donations which will be overseen by the committee. To date, the committee has disbursed over $17,000 primarily to address immediate needs of the residents and employees.
Multiple meetings have been organized for the employees, the displaced residents, and the business owners to assess the immediate needs of each.
Fundraising efforts continue.
Donations can be made online at www.GeorgetownFireRelief.com.
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