Councilwoman calls for a ‘do-over’ on Front Street design project

  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014

East Bay Park conceptual design and site layout.

Georgetown City Councilwoman Carol Jayroe called for a “do-over” last week last week on proposals to design the reconstruction of the fire-devastated 700 block of Front Street, after the Charleston architectural firm selected to present a plan was late with its proposal.

“A deadline is a deadline,” Jayroe said at a Georgetown City Council workshop on Thursday. “My recommendation is that we have a do-over and do it correctly,”

The council, missing three of its members at the workshop, did not act on Jayroe’s request.

“I have nothing to substantiate Councilwoman Jayroe’s complaint,” said Councilman Rudolph Bradley, and suggested the council hear from the representatives of the LS3P design firm since they were already at the meeting.

Mayor Jack Scoville agreed, saying, “The problems at the very worst were well-intentioned.” He said some of the responses were late because of inclement weather, but “everybody acted in good faith.” Council members Peggy Wayne, Brendon Barber and Clarence Smalls were not at the workshop.

The LS3P design firm was selected from an initial field of nine firms after a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was issued by the city on Jan. 10, and were due by 4 p.m. on Jan. 14.

The RFQ said the objective of the project was to prepare preliminary schematics, conceptual designs and cost estimates for rebuilding the 700 block of Front Street destroyed by fire.

A project review committee reviewed nine design proposals submitted in response to the RFQ. The committee included Vida Miller, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, who was hired last November by the city as a consultant to serve as a liaison with property owners, state regulatory agencies and city staff on the rebuilding. Her pay is $125 per hour and her services are expected to last for six months.

Others serving on the committee included Scoville, City Administrator Chris Carter and Front Street property owner Dwayne Christen, city employee Bonnie Infinger, Dan Newquist of the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments and Georgetown County Economic Director, Brian Tucker.

According to Carter, the committee narrowed the responses down to three, and then selected LS3P as the best qualified firm.

Three representatives of LS3P and an engineer contracted by the firm were at the workshop to walk council members through a presentation that featured past projects of the firm in Charleston; a summary of permitting issues, and technical issues including how a new building could be protected from river flooding by flood panels; and possible coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on potentially extending the river walk adjacent to the site.

David Burt, an LS3P architect and project manager, said the city essentially would be giving property owners “free design services.”

Four of eight business owners who lost their businesses in the fire were at the workshop, and two of them questioned the role of the city in the design of a new building or buildings at the site.

“Let the property owners have the final say on what our buildings look like,” said Jeannette Ard, a former Georgetown councilwoman who owned a floral business at the waterfront property.

Councilman Ed Kimbrough acknowledged what ultimately happens at the site depends on what the property owners want. He said the city can be a partner and is “educating itself” through the proposed design work.

Property owners, he said, have to decide what makes economic sense, in terms of whether potential rents at the reconstructed building support the cost of reconstruction. Councilwoman Jayroe noted, “At the end of the day, it’s private property.”

The cost of the design work on the reconstruction project won’t be established until the City Council decides to move forward with it and acts to authorize negotiations with a consultant, City Administrator Carter related after the workshop.

If the city moves forward to award a design contract for the Front Street reconstruction, he said, funding is likely to come from the federal Community Block Grant Program, which typically requires 25 percent matching funds from local government.

Burt said LS3P would meet with property owners individually and would hold public meetings to determine what business owners and Georgetown residents want in reconstructing the 18,000-square-foot site. “We rebuild cities,” he said, “and we do that by building consensus.”

In other matters, the city council:

• received an update on the East Bay Park conceptual design and site layout by Public Services Director Jonathan Heald. Councilman Kimbrough said he was pleased to see the design included eight tennis courts. “This looks great,” he said. “Georgetown High has no tennis courts to play on and this would be a great advantage for them.”

• heard Police Chief Paul Gardner walk them through a draft of proposed changes to the city’s animal control ordinance. The proposed changes included a requirement that pet owners register their dogs and cats annually.

The proposed annual licensing fee for fertile dogs and cats would be $25, and the city license fee for sterilized dogs and cats would be $5 per year. After discussion, the council was in agreement that the changes should be brought forward at the next council meeting for action.

The council meets again at 4:30 p.m. on May 6 for a budget workshop, and at 5:30 p.m. on May 15 for a regular meeting.

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