NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — A former dirt road off S.C. 31 near North Myrtle Beach is setting itself up to become a future Horry County business hub, just as officials hope to diversify the local economy in an effort to attract higher-paying jobs.
Water Tower Road, a two-lane highway on the western side of the Intracoastal Waterway that is undergoing a construction boom of both commercial and residential spaces, could be home to a multi-building corporate center if a developer’s plan passes.
The proposed multi-phase development, McDowell Corporate Center, is slated to sit on 35 acres across the road from the recently opened United Parcel Service, Inc. package delivery center — consisting of five buildings totaling 278,300 square feet of space if fully built out.
Potential tenants for the spaces are not known, however local developer Ed McDowell said at an April 3 North Myrtle Beach City Council meeting that his company is nearing a deal with an unnamed Myrtle Beach-based wholesale distributor and supplier to relocate into the planned first 50,000-square-foot building.
The first phase of the project received a unanimous vote from the City Council and needs one more vote to move forward. No timetable for construction was given.
“I think it’s good to see the commercial coming to fruition in that area,” Council member Jay Baldwin said. “You know, we looked at doing that many, many years ago and hoped that would happen to offer to bring jobs and that type of commercial product to North Myrtle Beach.”
The proposed McDowell Corporate Center would join the adjacent Palmetto Coast Industrial Park, which is under construction and slated to bring in Raleigh-headquartered Pepsi Bottling Ventures by the end of 2023.
County officials have acknowledged the area needs to diversify itself from a tourism-based economy into one that offers higher-paying jobs — making the area more marketable for prospective families moving into the state’s fastest-growing county.
With help from the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, the county in recent years has recruited manufacturing companies to expand into area business parks including the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor, Loris Industrial Park, Myrtle Beach International Technology and Aerospace Park in Market Common and the Water Tower Road projects.
In the past, the nearly seven-mile stretch of rural road from S.C. 90 to the former Waterway Hills Golf Club was mostly dirt and almost impassable after rainstorms.
After a 2009 wildfire that burned 19,000 acres and destroyed more than 70 homes in the nearby Barefoot Resort community, Water Tower Road was paved to aid in a faster response time for first responders, giving way to a construction boom.
While the developers for both the corporate center and the industrial park noted in their applications that the proposed location would take advantage of surrounding highway corridors S.C. 31 and S.C. 22 while maintaining distance from residential communities, new subdivisions are starting to sprout up nearby.
Less than a mile from the proposed industrial park, nearly 1,000 homes are coming to the former Waterway Hills Golf Club which closed in 2015.
Waterway Hills was annexed into North Myrtle Beach in 2008 as part of a 1,363-acre Planned Development District called the Parkway Group PDD that was created by the owners of six parcels of land, including the industrial park, proposed corporate center and the UPS facility.
North Myrtle Beach has plans to add police and fire stations off Water Tower Road, close to the proposed park. Until it’s built, the city will use the Barefoot Resort Station and has a public safety assistance agreement with Horry County.
“It (McDowell Corporate Center) will be a great asset to the city,” Baldwin said.