It’s ‘Full Forward’ for Downtown
By BRENDA HARRISON Editor of The News Journal Florence, S.C.
Downtown Florence continues to go “Full Forward” with renovations of buildings, seeking new tenants and new businesses.
Bob Sager, Retail Recruitment and Branding Consultant for the Florence Downtown Development Corp., talked with The News Journal last week about current development and upcoming plans.
One of the most exciting things happening right now is the foundation underway on the Hyatt Place hotel, he said. The five-story structure, at the intersection of Dargan and Evans, will feature 103 rooms.
“This is a pretty big deal,” Sager noted, explaining that the $15 million investment shows confidence in downtown and its renewal. The project is a partnership of SpringBridge Development and Raines Hospitality and is expected to open in about a year.
Another ladies fashion retailer is coming downtown, probably opening in October, Sager reported.
He was real excited about the FDDC’s current competition in which already established businesses were invited to apply and compete for a $50,000 prize package to locate downtown. The winner receives a $30,000 grant to upfit their building and $20,000 in cash.
Sager said the committee members were thrilled with the response which included 36 applications. Six of those were selected as finalists. Two dropped out, so the remaining four presented their business plans to the committee last Thursday. The winner will be selected this week.
The contest turned out to be a great marketing tool, Sager commented. Three of the finalists were from out-of town and the other three were local. All of them would be a great addition to downtown, he noted, adding that some may decide to come later.
Sager said the finalists included a bakery, antique and better home store, a contemporary ladies specialty store, a children and ladies clothing store, and a flower shop. All are established businesses.
“The exciting thing about that is it is a win for the city,” he said.
Discussing possibilities downtown, Sager said there is conversation going on concerning the former Carolina Theatre. Tim Norwood, chairman of the FDDC, is talking with the operator of a similar venue with hopes this might develop into something for the old theater property on South Dargan Street.
The interior of the North Dargan Street building that is the future home of the Art Trail Gallery is currently under renovation. The FDDC is shooting for completion in November, Sager said. As for downtown living, Sager noted that the Emerson condos are at full capacity. Also, a few more condos are being built on North Dargan Street.
“It is worth noting,” Sager said, “that everything that has been done was done very well, in good taste and with good design. “There is no shabby workmanship. The investment is obvious,” he said.
As part of the downtown redevelopment, the FDDC introduced a new brand logo for Florence in the spring – Full Life, Full Forward, Florence South Carolina.