Conway Closes in on Full Benefit of Hotel Development as City Growth Continues

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The Cypress Inn in downtown Conway is one of a handful of hotels in the city. An incentive plan being considered by officials could lead to more.

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Waccamaw Outfitters is located at the mouth of Conway Marina, offering boaters direct access to the company’s eponymous river and designer clothing to go with it.

It’s the kind of store that can only benefit from increased foot traffic and tourist visits as the town of 25,000 continues to grow, which is why owner Matthew Varnadore wants to know about a new incentive for economic development.

“Waccamaw Outfitters is not a hobby for me. This is how I pay my mortgage. It’s how I take care of my family, like the rest of these downtown small business owners,” Varnadore said. “If you have people who live, visit and stay in downtown Conway, they’ll walk, they’ll eat, they’ll shop with us.”

City leaders are exploring a benefits package that would give hotel developers five-year reductions in their hospitality and property taxes, as well as an expedited site review plan so they can get to work faster.

“These developments would increase local employment, broaden the tax base and create new wealth opportunities in the community,” reads a description of the incentive program.

The city council is expected to finalize the program this summer.

“We’re not trying to compete with Myrtle Beach. It would be ridiculous. But we understand that 501 is a beach lifeline. If you’re a tourist entering the Grand Strand, Conway is kind of your last taste of home,” said Devin Parks, director of economic development for the Conway Chamber of Commerce.

City leaders identified a need for more hotels in its key commercial and business districts in its 2017 downtown masterplan plan. According to the chamber’s business directory, there are currently eight lodging options within the city limits.

“We want to share the hidden gem that we are, and we want those visitors to be able to stay in the town of Conway and have the opportunity to see all it has to offer,” Parks said.

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