Myrtle Beach’s new arts district is about the future. What happens to the historic buildings?
Myrtle Beach’s arts and innovation district is all about the future.
Renderings of sleek, glass-fronted buildings hugged by modern landscaping and streetscapes populate the booklet officials have enthusiastically shared with civic groups, business leaders and just about anyone else who might have help transform the downtown of America’s most rapidly growing city.
But for all the forward-looking approaches, the district bounded by Broadway, Oak and Main streets and 9th Ave N. is steeped in lore - enough that downtown Myrtle Beach won a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.
“Collectively, the district’s 18 contributing and eight non-contributing buildings illustrate the changes in the city’s economic status from the throes of the Great Depression to the boom of the post-World War II period,” its description states.
Here’s a look at some of the most distinctive properties and how they factor into an evolving city plan.
The Sun City Cafe continues a history of downtown dining
The 801 Main Street landmark — home to Sun City Cafe since 2001 — was originally built in the late 1930s to house Myrtle Beach Grill - one of the city’s first independently run restaurants when it opened. By 1937, it was re-branded as the Seven Seas Grill.
One of the first buildings constructed in what’s today known as the Nance Plaza block, it’s next door to what will become a state-of-the art performing arts center seen as the arts and innovation district’s cultural hub.
One of Myrtle Beach’s hottest investment properties is a papered-over drugstore
Next door to Sun Cafe is what used to be Mack’s a five-and-dime that moved into the downtown 803-805 Main Street store in the early 1950s, helping to drive a robust local merchant sector that included clothiers and restaurants.
Today, the connected 7,000-square-foot buildings constructed in the early 1930s have street-facing windows covered by paper and contact information for several real estate agents.
But with the city’s ongoing property acquisitions and plans to build a multi-million theater right next door, agent Gary Roberts believes the former drug store will help power Myrtle Beach’s modern economy.
“I am promoting these buildings to investors as what I truly believe to be one of the best investment opportunities available on the entire Grand Strand,” Roberts said. “That arts district will be a major tourism attraction for the downtown area and I fully believe in it, but I’ve had a difficult time filling these two buildings based on (just) the vision and the promise.”
A LoopNet listing has the buildings for sale at $937,000, with tax incentives are available to spur the development of the site.
The headquarters of a former lumber company is on track to become an arts haven
In 1957, the Myrtle Beach Lumber Company opened at 801 Broadway Street, eventually expanding in 1968. Although it merged with Seacoast Building Centers in the early 1970s, the company was able to show how versatile the city’s economy could be. The brick building, with a flat roof and large street-facing windows also had a slanted sign common among mid-century architecture.
It also served as the long-time home of downtown instrument shop Star Music.
Today, 8,844-square-foot site falls under the city’s new ART zoning code:
As a year-round destination for both residents and visitors, the district’s primary uses are supported by a wide range of businesses that help to maintain a vibrant atmosphere. Building design is in harmony with the character of the area and establishes a continuity of pedestrian-oriented frontages between adjacent buildings,” the city’s zoning ordinance explains.
This is further supported by pedestrian-oriented urban design, the active use of outdoor space for dining and entertainment, encouraging the development of upper-story residences in mixed-use buildings, and the incorporation of both active and passive public spaces throughout the district.”
The Kozy Korner emerged as one of Myrtle Beach’s go-to eateries in the city’s early days
Anchoring 815 Main Street for nearly a century, the once-booming Kozy Korner restaurant still holds a place as one of the city’s most distinctive buildings with its flatiron shape. The Kozy Korner was among the first Myrtle Beach eateries to boast air conditioning and was known for its progressive streak.
Through the segregated South, Kozy Korner welcomed Black and Jewish patrons when many other area businesses and eateries would not. Eventually, Kozy Korner would become Kings Kastle — Myrtle Beach’s first fast food joint.
In the 1960s, the space was subdivided and used for retail including women’s clothing stores.
It’s 8,220 square feet of retail space offers income sources and is zoned for commercial, mixed use and as art space.