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City seeks Front Street fire scene redevelopment firm

  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Front Street business owners whose buildings were destroyed by fire on Sept. 25 have to deal with a mountain of red tape before they can rebuild.

The City of Georgetown is hoping to help ease that burden somewhat by hiring a firm that can help answer many of the questions that must be answered before any construction can occur.

The city is seeking requests for qualifications for a “redevelopment plan” for the 700 block of Front Street.

The firm that is hired will work closely with the business owners, said Sarah Smith, director of Waccamnaw Regional Council of Governments, which drew up the request documentation.

The consultants “will be responsible for addressing all issues as they arise during the course of site evaluation of the properties,” the city’s documentation states.

Smith said one of the biggest hurdles the owners face is how to meet federal flood regulations.

“Right now there is a lot of confusion about the costs related to rebuilding,” Smith said, “mainly because of the base flood elevations.”

Will the owners have to raise their buildings in order to afford flood insurance? Would it be more cost-effective to make their buildings flood-proof? Would they be able to afford insurance if they chose that option? How will the new buildings fit into the architectural design of Front Street?

These are just some of the types of questions the firm or firms hired will deal with as the redevelopment takes place, Smith said.

“They will help to navigate through this. The property owners need this information in order to rebuild,” she said.

The hired firm or firms will “examine the different options available to the property owners and the City,” the documents state.

Whoever is hired will study:

• Construction of individual buildings versus construction of buildings on a common foundation.

• Any changes to the sidewalk, Harborwalk, parking spaces adjacent to the sites and other public spaces or utilities that may be affected due to the change in property elevation or flood-proofing.

• Identification of any environmental or regulatory constraints.

Smith said once the information is compiled, “rational decisions can be made.”

Jeanette Ard, owner of Colonial Floral Fascinations, lost her store in the fire. She said this is a “positive step forward” by the city.

She said the firm will create a conceptual drawing on how the block will look with the buildings elevated and how they may look if flood prevention measures are taken at the current elevation. “We cannot go forward without it,” she said of the hiring of the firm, expected to be paid with grant funds.

The deadline for submitting the proposals to the city is Feb. 14.

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