The public front-beach bathrooms at the Isle of Palms are "aesthetically displeasing," poorly ventilated and difficult to maintain, officials say, so City Council is soliciting proposals from architectural and engineering firms on what to do about the situation.

"We just know we have to do something," Councilman Jimmy Ward said.

Alternatives under consideration include upgrading the restrooms - one each for men and women in the same building - tearing the building down and constructing a new one at the current location, or putting a new facility across the street from the beachfront on city-owned land used for pay parking.

The beach restrooms are located on about a quarter-acre of city-owned property on Ocean Boulevard in the commercial district.

"The city is open to all economically feasible ideas," its request for proposals states.

The city says that it is "somewhat reconciled" to the fact that renovating the current structure or building a new one at the current site may not be possible or practical.

Flood regulations could require elevating new front-beach restrooms from their current 13 feet above mean sea level to 20 feet if the facility stays in its present location. Renovations that exceed 50 percent of the value of the $253,000 building would trigger new flood-zone elevation requirements.

Accommodations taxes will fund whatever work is done to address the restroom situation, Ward said.

Officials said that upgrading the restrooms could lead to more use of city pay parking and less parking on residential streets.

Maintenance of the 20-year-old restrooms is difficult because plumbing is inside cinder-block walls that have to be torn out for pipe repairs. The roof is not in good shape, said City Administrator Linda Tucker.

The firm selected for the project will evaluate site alternatives and make recommendations to City Council. Proposals will be accepted until 4 p.m. on Jan. 15.