It’s time for Hilton Head to THINK BIG again!

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marc freyImagine standing on a plantation full of oak and pine trees, dotted with swamps, about 60 years ago — when our island was served by a drawbridge and a two-way road connector to Interstate 95 — and having the guts to imagine a planned community complete with roadways, bike paths, golf courses, tennis centers, marinas, playgrounds, shopping areas and a multitude of villas and homes.

It took BIG thinking to accomplish what we take for granted today.

I feel that our town, its residents and visitors are ready for us to take another BIG step and create a multi-use arts and conference center. There has been talk among several thought leaders and organizations about the need and desire for such a place, but no single entity has the ability to  accomplish this on its own. It will take the leadership of town council to orchestrate such an effort and analyze how a public/private partnership could accomplish this. An initial step has been taken by hiring a consultant to make an initial assessment.

For those who are not familiar with how the current Arts Center was created, here is a brief synopsis: The current facility (about 350 seats) was going to be Step 1. Step 2 envisioned a second, much larger facility (about 1,000 seats). The land to accomplish this was put aside but has since been redeveloped into apartments instead. The name “Arts Center” stuck but, it’s somewhat misleading, considering the facility has been relegated to a theater, an adjoining gallery and valuable youth outreach program.

It’s no secret among current stakeholders that a new center would accomplish what none of the current facilities can do: Hold events for up to 2,000 people while being flexible for smaller venues with breakout rooms. This new facility could be used by existing arts organizations, newly developing efforts such as the Hilton Head Island Institute and would have the ability to attract new commercial and cultural events that are currently unthinkable in our resort town.

Such a facility would come with a hefty price tag but its direct and indirect economic impact would no doubt make up for the investment and upgrade the image of Hilton Head Island. It certainly would require an active participation and contributions of the town and taxpayers, but what we would gain in return would repay all of us directly and indirectly. Directly with the ability to attend intellectual and cultural events that cannot be staged today and indirectlywith higher tax revenues from visitors year round and higher property values as Hilton Head Island continues to become a more desirable place to call home, visit and retire.

Please send your comments to my email at mfrey@freymedia.com. We would like to get your feedback on this important idea.