Building a Quality of Life

July 27, 2023

Written by Lawrence Conneff

Photos by the Town of Bluffton

Parks, public docks and boat ramps, sidewalks, sewer connections and historic buildings.

These are the kinds of things Bluffton’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) has built or renovated over the years.

The town allocates more than a third of its annual operating budget to capital improvement projects designed to improve quality of life and infrastructure. Projects are divided into categories like roads, parks, sewer and stormwater, housing, facilities, economic development, land acquisition and internet technology.

Within the past five years, completed capital improvements include a new Calhoun Street Regional Dock, streetscapes on May River Road and Dr. Mellichamp Drive, new parks and parking in the Old Town historic district, and the veterans memorial park at Buckwalter Place.

Over the last decade, the town also has completed several phases of ongoing sewer extension projects, restored the Garvin-Garvey House, upgraded water access at Oyster Factory Park and opened a police substation in Old Town — just a few items on a long list of capital improvements, from sidewalks to signs and street lighting.

The Capital Improvement Program fund in the town’s 2024 fiscal year budget is $28.8 million. Its funding sources include hospitality and local accommodations taxes, bonds, tax increment financing, the town’s general and stormwater funds, grants and the CIP’s fund balance.

More than half of the budget’s CIP expenditures are slated for park, stormwater and sewer improvements. Park projects make up 26.5 percent of the proposed CIP budget, or about $7.6 million. Stormwater and sewer make up 24.4 percent, or about $7 million.

The other project groups in the budget are land acquisition (just under $4 million), economic development ($3.3 million), roads ($2.3 million), facilities ($1.7 million), housing ($1.7) and information technology infrastructure ($488,000).

Specific projects mentioned in the budget include sewers in Old Town and the Buck Island-Simmonsville neighborhood; drainage on Pritchard Street; pedestrian safety improvements; lighting on Wharf Street; improvements at Town Hall, Sarah Riley Hooks Cottage, Squire Pope Carriage House and the Law Enforcement Center; streetscapes on Boundary, Bridge and Calhoun streets; a townwide wayfinding signage system; improvements at Oyster Factory, Oscar Frazier, New Riverside Barn, and New Riverside Village parks; and community safety cameras.

The public can track the progress of 37 ongoing projects on the town’s Capital Project Dashboard page at

Here’s a look at some of the town’s current capital projects:

Oscar Frazier Park

Oscar Frazier Park:
The town continues to add amenities to the park. “Hardscape and landscape improvements” at the Rotary Community Center were set to begin this summer. A splash pad is planned.

Buck Island-Simmonsville Sanitary Sewer:
The town continues to install sewer lines for parts of the Buck Island-Simmonsville neighborhood that do not have access to public sewers. The final phase of the project is underway, according to the dashboard page. It is expected to be finished in November.

Historic District Sanitary Sewer Extension:
Sewer access also is being extended throughout the historic district. Phases 2-6 will add sewer lines to parts of Bridge, Colcock, Lawrence, Green and Water streets.

Comprehensive Drainage Plan Improvements:
Drainage improvements in Old Town are “a multi-year capital project that will continue as needs are identified over 5 years or more.” Design work on the project includes “stormwater facility asset inventory, condition assessment, and surveying and water surface profile modeling for various storm events.” Improvements on Pritchard Street are in the design phase. They would “reduce risk of flooding and improve water quality of stormwater runoff prior to entering Heyward Cove.”

Town of Bluffton Housing Project:
The town is “working with a joint venture partner to develop high-quality affordable housing,” the dashboard page says. Conceptual design would begin after approval of the joint venture agreement.

New Riverside Park/Barn Site:
The town is adding a new park on the 37-acre barn site at the S.C. 170-S.C. 46 traffic circle. The first phase of construction, which is underway, includes “entry road, parking, trails, utilities, drainage, signage, fences, gates, landscaping and lighting.” Additional work could include “renovation of the existing barn for a gathering and event space, parking, perimeter trails, open fields to accommodate community events, restrooms, site furnishings, playground, picnic shelters, lighting, landscaping and safety cameras.”

Sarah Riley Hooks Cottage:
The town purchased the historic home on Bridge Street at the end of 2019 as part of “an effort to preserve historically significant structures in the Historic District.” Assessments began in the 2023 fiscal year “to determine the highest and best public use of the land and structure.” Final plans for the property are scheduled to be developed in 2024.

Squire Pope Carriage House

Squire Pope Carriage House Preservation:
Rehabilitation work started in the 2023 fiscal year on the building, which is one of 10 remaining antebellum structures in the town. The work is expected to be completed in 2025. The house is located on the Wright Family Park property that overlooks the May River on Calhoun Street.

Boundary Street Streetscape:
Construction is expected to begin in the 2024 fiscal year. The streetscape work would include “walkways, crosswalks, utility relocations, drainage improvements and traffic calming measures inside and adjacent to the Boundary Street right of way.”

Bridge Street Streetscape:
Improvements are to consist of “sidewalks, on-street parking, street lighting, crosswalks, drainage and ADA compliance improvements on Bridge from Burnt Church Road to Thomas Heyward.” Construction on Phase 1, from Burnt Church Road to Calhoun Street, began in late 2022. Phase 2, from Calhoun Street to Thomas Heyward Street, could start in 2025.

Calhoun Street Streetscape:
“Engineering design and underground power conversion plans are underway” for this project, which is planned from May River Road to Water Street. Construction could start in 2025 or 2026. “Future improvements may include pervious paver parking, road resurfacing, sidewalk widening, more defined crosswalks, drainage/stormwater, street lighting, signage, site furnishings, landscaping and utility relocations,” the dashboard says.