042017 Pawleys Island: Gateway idea gets architect in the door at Town Hall
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David Graham sketched a building that would span the street.

Pawleys Island: Gateway idea gets architect in the door at Town Hall

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

David Graham took a risk.

The Graham Group reaped the reward.

A “napkin sketch” that shows the new Pawleys Island Town Hall spanning the roadway on Pavilion Lane led an ad hoc committee of town officials to recommend the firm unanimously as the architects for the project. It is the first major facility the town has built since it was formed in 1985.

“A little sketch went a long way,” said Jimmy Braswell, a member of the Planning Commission. Six of the seven commission members and four of five Town Council members formed the committee that interviewed Graham and Michael Walker of Tyche and Walker. A third firm, Creech and Associates of Mount Pleasant, dropped out.

Committee members agreed the firms were evenly matched. “They both have a passion for the project,” said Jimmy McCants, who chairs the Planning Commission. “Both of them realize we want something unique,” commission member Bill Doar said.

The old Town Hall, which was originally a rental office for beach houses, was flooded during Hurricane Matthew. Uncertain whether it could be rebuilt under federal flood regulation and limited by the building’s 450 square feet, the town decided to build a new facility on Pavilion Lane, which runs alongside the town Nature Park between the North Causeway and Myrtle Avenue. The site would be limited to the street right of way.

After walking the committee through the steps that would lead to the final design and construction, Graham said, “I’m going out on a limb.” He showed a sketch of a building that would sit above the one-way street and allow cars to pass underneath. “The building as a gatehouse,” he said. “It’s the perfect setup for that situation.”

Even if the committee didn’t like the concept, Graham said he hoped they would see it as evidence of creative thinking. But the idea “keeps rattling around in my head,” he added.

“That could be a toll gate,” McCants said, laughter breaking the reflective mood of the committee.

“I’m glad you brought that up,” Mayor Bill Otis said. He was concerned about the cost of the building.

“It’s a wonderful, novel concept,” Braswell said. The building will have to be raised about 10 feet to meet flood regulations. That will require an elevator at a cost of about $40,000. The alternative would be 100 feet of ramp to meet the standards for handicapped access. “I can’t envision a 100-foot ramp,” McCants said.

Using the elevator shaft and stairwell to support the building “takes all the bad looks of pilings away,” commission member Ed Fox said.

Even Otis warmed to the concept. “When it first went up there I thought, ‘I don’t know if I would have done that,’ ” he said. Although the building didn’t appear particularly Lowcountry, “that doesn’t mean it can’t be,” Otis said.

The town has estimated a new building at 2,000 square feet. Since it began the process, Town Council decided to repair the old Town Hall, but find another use for the space. If damaged again within five years, the repair cost would trigger compliance with the flood rules and that would effectively end its use. So the town is moving forward with the plans for a new Town Hall even as it negotiates for the site.

Pavilion Lane is a state road, but the land underneath it was marsh that was filled in during the 1950s. The Pawleys Pavilion dance hall sat on the creekfront before it was destroyed by fire in 1970. The nonprofit company formed to build the pavilion still owns the property and the Nature Park, which is leased to the town. The town wants the state to close Pavilion Lane, but the Pawleys Pavilion Co. will have a claim on the property, Otis said. (He was the company president before he was elected mayor in 1997.) But the company is willing to lease the road right of way to the town, he said. The town is seeking a 99-year lease.

Commission member Bill Tuttle wondered aloud if the decision on an architect should wait until the site is secured. Otis urged the committee to move forward. “We’re down to a whole lot fewer what-ifs,” he said.

The final decision will still require a vote by Town Council. Rocky Holliday listened to the presentations, but left before the committee vote. Sarah Zimmerman was out of town. Council Member Mike Adams said the final vote should wait until they were available even though he, Otis and Council Member Ashley Carter were part of the committee vote.

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