The power of partnerships

With reduced budgets and resources, many in the public sector are finding the most effective way to provide services and amenities to the public is through partnerships with other public or private entities.
The Town of Mount Pleasant has completed a number of successful projects with the help of its partners. Town Administrator Eric DeMoura highlighted several of those projects for municipal officials during a preconference tour of Mount Pleasant at the Association's Annual Meeting in July.
The first stop on the tour, called "Leveraging Partnerships for Community Success," was at the Memorial Waterfront Park. The land there was once the site of the Grace and Pearman bridges, which were torn down and replaced by the current Ravenel Bridge. The changes at the site opened up 12 acres of land.
Memorial Waterfront Park 
 Memorial Waterfront Park
The town bought the land from the state Department of Transportation and turned it into a waterfront park, responding to calls from residents who desired access to the water. The town then partnered with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to build the Southeast's longest fishing pier, which extends 1,300 feet into the Charleston Harbor. A visitor's center also sits in the park. In all, 16 different partnerships were at play to create the public park, which opened on July 4, 2009, DeMoura said.
The second stop on the tour was Shem Creek Park. Originally there was no public access to Shem Creek. Only people patronizing a restaurant or bar, or staying at a hotel located there had access to the creek. Town officials secured agreements with private property owners to gain public access to Shem Creek. In return, the town is helping the property owners by reconstructing docks. The town created Shem Creek Park, featuring a 2,200-foot boardwalk. The increased foot traffic in front of Shem Creek businesses is "almost our own little economic development engine," DeMoura said.
Shem Creek Park 
Shem Creek Park 
Again, partnerships were essential on this project, DeMoura said.
"Without the agreements from the private property owners, we would never be able to do this," he said. "We could never afford to buy all that waterfront property."
Visitors on the tour also had an opportunity to see revitalization efforts underway on Coleman Boulevard-Mount Pleasant's own "Main Street" area. Mount Pleasant has high property values which means a lack of workforce housing-affordable housing for working-class residents like teachers and firemen. Town officials worked with a developer to secure workforce housing units in an apartment building, DeMoura said.
DeMoura also guided visitors on a tour of the Harbor Accelerator. The accelerator has a different take than the traditional business incubator, DeMoura said, noting that the start-ups selected are those with the potential for the greatest impact on the community. During a 14-week cram session, the start-ups are "collided" with successful entrepreneurs who share as much entrepreneurial knowledge and spirit as possible.
Memorial Waterfront Park 
Harbor Accelerator 
The town supports the accelerator by providing it with free space, DeMoura said. The hope is that the business owners who graduate from the program will then put down roots in the community, he said.
"We all want to improve the community experience for our people, to become a place where our residents can meet their aspirations. Our job is to foster the environment where our residents can meet their aspirations," DeMoura said. "To do that, we will surely encounter challenges and obstacles, but with partnerships, we can overcome them."
"Others out there may have strengths we may not have, access to things we may not have," he said. "We need to see how we can work together for everybody's benefit."