Mayor Harry Williams
Hardeeville . . . A City on the Move
On May 6, 2021, Mayor Williams gave an exciting presentation on the current and future of the City of Hardeeville to the Greater Island Council. It truly is a city on the move!
During his presentation, Mayor Williams interweaved several topics:
- Improving the quality of life of residents
- Protecting the environment
- Addressing the issue of traffic and roads as the City grows
- Expanding schools in Hardeeville
- Recognizing the effect of growth on Hardeeville’s regional neighbors
For background, the Mayor estimated that the City will grow from 8,000 residents in 2021 to 30,000 residents by 2030 (2,950 in 2010). Geographically, the City is 5 square miles and stretches along I-95 from Mile Exit 3 to Mile Exit 13. Within the City, travel from the bottom to the top of the City would be a 20 mile trip. Expectations are that the City will have a large residential area, an industrial area and a warehouse area.
Residential: The East Argent tract will drive much of the population growth. It is zoned for 9,500 homes. There will be moderately priced homes and apartments, likely with school age children. 80 acres have been donated to the City and a portion will be set aside for a school. There will be a 1,330 acre conservation easement as a passive recreation center. Ecotourism will be important in that area. Sun City is the seventh project master plan for the East Argent tract and will account for 1,500 of the homes within the East Argent tract. Argent Boulevard is a major thoroughfare, heavily trafficked and at high speed. Sun City will have a light at the intersection and turning lanes into Sun City. The Mayor does not expect new school traffic or additional commuter traffic on the Boulevard. However, a traffic study will be conducted between US 278 and SC 170. He also mentioned that the police have tripled the number of patrols along the Boulevard, and they have issued many warnings, with the goal of improving public safety rather than increasing ticket income. Margaritaville Hilton Head has had explosive growth with 456 single home permits in this year. By late fall, there will be a light at the entrance to Margaritaville and US 278. Hampton Pointe will be renamed Riverton Pointe and Toll Brothers will be adding an amenity center and golf course. All of the projects going in will have 50-foot buffers. A loop road from Oldfield down to New River will have sidewalks and bike and pedestrian trails. The City is insisting that developers leave active open spaces and let the communities decide what should go there (park benches, playgrounds, etc.). West Argent will have a residential component as well. Magnolia Walk near Hilton Head Lakes has already started selling homes.
Industrial and Warehousing: West Argent northwest of Hilton Head Lakes encompasses 4,000 acres and has been purchased by a good company with a solid business plan. It will be a little more industrial, not just residential. The industrial area will be near Mile Exit 13. Hardeeville Commerce Park (170 acres) will be sold by the City; the proceeds will be used to fund many of the City’s projects. Some of the land will be purchased by a Chicago company for $800,000. Riverport is where the new Mile Exit 3 will be by February 2025 and will be a major part of the projected industrial and warehousing/logistics operations. In Hardeeville, spec buildings are being erected and the first tenant will be Home Depot (60,000 square feet). The whole project will be a $250 million investment. There will be a total of ten buildings; the third is being built now. What is important with this location is that truckers from the Georgia Port Authority can turn around four to six round trips daily. It’s good for the truckers and it’s good for the Port Authority. This project takes advantage of the Opportunity Zone Legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Scott. The Sherwood Tract has 1,500 acres and the City is hoping to attract Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) here. This Tract is intended to be industrial space which provides more job opportunities than warehousing.
Quality of Life: Near the end of June the 40,000 square foot recreation center will open. It has been designed as a regional recreation center and is a major part of the City’s sports tourism plan. The Richard Grey Recreation Center has baseball and softball fields. Currently, USCB plays its men’s baseball and women’s softball there and John Paul II plays its baseball there. The City also has an artificial turf football field that is also used for soccer. The entire park will be renovated for $6 million, and a walking trail will be added. The City recently opened a new dog park, new playground and covered basketball court. The traditional downtown area along Whyte Hardee Boulevard needs much work. The City has a multi-year, multi-million dollar master plan with park spaces, benches, a library, an event space, museum and a veterans’ memorial.
Challenges: The City needs to address the problems along Whyte Hardee Boulevard. There are itinerant hotels where people who can’t afford apartments live and where homeless people when they have the money to stay. The City cannot ignore the undereducated and underserved people in the community. To begin to address these concerns, the City has partnered with Bluffton Self Help to prepare residents for GED, teach basic computer skills and find new jobs. The City began workforce training in the Public Works Building last year and has already graduated 20 to 25 people, and 10 have already gotten Commercial Driver Licenses Type A. While this is a good beginning, the region needs a workforce training center as a complement to the Technical College of the Lowcountry. The center should be agile to adapt to whatever skills may be need at a given time, i.e., welding, forklift operation, etc. On the City’s wish list is a 100,000 square foot training center adjacent to Hardeeville Commerce Park to address the needs of people within a 50-mile radius of Mile Exit 5. Roadways and transportation will be another challenge since 30,000 people in Hardeeville will put a lot of pressure on existing systems. SC 170 between 2462 and US 278 needs a $50 million improvement plan. The City must address workforce housing, especially with the potentially high demand for workers as development increases. Training will be key to preparing low-income people for those jobs. Once they have those jobs, they will be more able to afford housing. A key to addressing these challenges will be public/private partnerships with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Bluffton Self Help, Volunteers in Medicine, Lowcountry Legal Aid and the YMCA.
The Mayor concluded by saying Hardeeville must not just be about building houses but be about building a community.