As a 30-ton excavator clawed its way through the brick and concrete foundation of downtown Myrtle Beach’s former Fountainbleau Inn, Eileen Huhges stood across the street with her phone, recording the destruction for posterity.
“It’s been here for so long that with it coming down, we just wanted to see it,” she said.
Once a mainstay for tourists, the Inn’s famous art deco sign and walking distance to the beach made it a quintessential hub for vacationers.
But in recent years it developed a reputation for crime and blight — just months before city leaders bought the property in December 2021, a person was injured in a shooting.
Crews from Georgetown-based JMEC Construction began the process Wednesday of dismantling the inn as part of a multimillion-dollar urban reclamation project.
Last year, the city agreed to spend $15 million for a 10-parcel land buy targeting locations that have fallen into disrepair near its Arts and Innovation district: Two commercial properties, seven hotels and a vacant lot.
The land is being paid for through tax increment financing, which allows the city to fund projects with property tax growth from a designated area.
In April, the nearby Sea Nymph met a similar fate as Fountainbleau — a $174,500 combined demolition job.
Over the next few months, Hutton’s company will clear lots currently home to the Oasis and Sea Palms motels.
“It’s interesting to see what they’re going to do with it,” Hughes said.
City leaders have justified the purchases as necessary to move forward with large-scale downtown development.
Assistant city manager Brian Tucker declined to comment Wednesday, but told the City Council in December why the properties needed to be cleaned up.
“At some point, we have to take leadership positions; we have to quit waiting on people to do the next big thing for us,”he said during a Dec. 14 City Council meeting where the property acquisitions were approved. “This is our effort at taking the lead on redevelopment.”
This story was originally published June 1, 2022 12:00 AM.