Op Ed: Georgetown Strong Part 3

  • Friday, January 24, 2014

My first guest editorial, Georgetown Strong, focused on ways we could cope with and move forward from the September 25th devastating fire. Georgetown Strong Part Two spelled out a strategy for celebrating the holidays on Front Street that would ease the pain and generate business for our shops and restaurants.

This third installment is an outgrowth of a GBA [Georgetown Business Association] and Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce strategic planning session on Tuesday, January 21 that focused on initiatives to further revitalize downtown from January through August 2014.

After reviewing the holiday plan, the group approved repeating the initiatives for 2014 and added celebrating National Restaurant January 8-18, 2015. Moreover, the members of GBA committed to supporting other groups who have regularly-scheduled events during October, November and December.

One of the keys to revitalizing Georgetown is for people to assist one another so that every event or program is done exceptionally well. The synergy from working together produces greater creativity and generates more excitement.

Before developing a plan for January through August, we identified the strengths of Georgetown, which is truly a remarkable small community. Everyone in attendance contributed an idea and the sense of positive energy was palpable.

The list of strengths and assets begins with the consensus view of the four unique strengths (WHAST) that need to be accentuated or leveraged to enable Georgetown to fulfill its potential to become the “Historic Waterfront Community” that those who live here believe it can be.

1. Waterfront: One of a very few communities where the downtown is truly on the water with an attractive, easily navigable and handicapped-accessible Harborwalk and diverse opportunities for expanded outdoor activities (fishing, kayaks, sailing, paddle boards, etc.) as well as an array of excellent river cruises and tours leaving from the Harborwalk.

2. Historic: Four high quality museums in a four-block area (Rice, Maritime, Historic, and Kaminski House Museums), architecturally and historically significant buildings and homes, and an interesting and diverse number of walking and riding tours in the Historic District.

3. Artistic: Galleries downtown, but equally important, several outstanding artists live or work or exhibit their work downtown and several more outstanding artists live or work or exhibit their work between McClellanville and Murrells Inlet.

4. Small Town: Downtown Georgetown is a friendly and compact place with a “small town feel.” Residents and visitors feel they are in a small and intimate setting, where they can walk throughout the historic and retail districts and along the waterfront in a very manageable and pleasant way.

Other strengths or assets include: excellent and diverse restaurants; unique, independently owned shops and antiques stores; a distinct and attractive old style theatre in the Strand; attractive parks, rest areas, fountains, and public restrooms; free and convenient parking; and attractive and helpful way-finding signage.

As with the holiday plan, the group discussed several ideas and then reached consensus on a strategic plan that incorporates the best ideas. The ideas were divided into two categories: GBA members support current programs and events to help make them even better and GBA will either design and implement new events or serve as a catalyst or facilitator of new events.

In the category of supporting current events, the group approved supporting and where appropriate helping to enhance or expand the following programs and events between January and August 2014: Winyah Heritage Festival, Easter Egg hunt, Entertainment in the Park, Summer Concert Series; Street Shag Dance; Plantation Tours; 4th of July Concert and Fireworks; and Summer Sailing School.

In the category of designing and implementing new events or serving as a catalyst or facilitator for new events, from among approximately twenty ideas, the following eight events or ideas were endorsed by consensus: Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Parade and Dance; an Art Walk, perhaps a “First Friday of the Month” event that showcases the large number of excellent artists in the Georgetown area; a Gospel Jamboree, an all-day Gospel Sing with groups from throughout the state; greater use of the waterfront and Harborwalk with regular events like kayak races, a regatta, and paddle board races around Goat Island; Spring Break Week, an effort to plan special events for college and K-12 spring break; more family-friendly activities such as a scavenger hunt for historic sites, special places and even adding objects like small ceramic alligators or birds for children to find and check off a list, concerts and movies for kids, and horseshoes, cornhole and other games for children and adults; Blessing of the Fleet becomes a major event like at other harbors in South Carolina; and a Lighted Boat Parade in the spring or summer.

This is an ambitious agenda for downtown. We can’t do it alone. But we can and will be successful if we work together. Collaboration and synergy are powerful forces for good. And the citizens of Georgetown are good people.

Join us in revitalizing our community; share your talents; give of your time. We need your best; you’ll enjoy giving your best; Georgetown deserves your best!

Peter Mitchell is vice president of the Georgetown Business Association.

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