Hometown Revitalization

My hometown of Florence, SC has been undergoing much needed revitalization over the past few years. When I moved to Florence in 1988, my family owned a women's clothing store on Evans Street (what is now the "Fashions" storefront in the photo above). I remember my parents shopping at surrounding locally owned businesses (Samra's Shoes, Sarmientos Jewerly, etc.), and I remember going across the street to get snacks and slushies from a store in the Kress Building. Hurricane Hugo caused substantial damage when it hit the area in September of 1989, and the recession of the early 90's soon followed. I'm not exactly sure when, but by the early 90's, most of the business moved to other areas of town or closed. 

I don't think I ever really went back downtown until the early 2000's, when I was in high school and working as a runner at a local law firm. By that time, the only business remaining in the area seemed to be professional offices. Other stores and shops came and left, but a majority of the buildings were showing severe signs of neglect. There had been discussions for several years on how to revitalize downtown, but nothing ever seemed to materialize. 

In the late 2000's the Francis Marion University Preforming Arts Center was announced as a joint venture between the University and the City, and it's construction was completed in 2011. The downtown location seemed to give the revitalization effort a jolt of life. A few new restaurants opened, the Florence Little Theater moved downtown, and the Florence Museum relocated to the area. Hotel Florence and Victor's Bistro opened in the heart of downtown in 2013, and they seem to be the catalyst for getting people on the streets. There are after work events with live music, a farmers market, and the annual Pecan Festival held downtown.

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It's obvious there is still a lot of work to do, but the potential is there and I think finally being realized. The architectural details of the buildings are impressive, and there are rumors of new restaurants, offices, and even housing retrofits. Hopefully this trend continues, and Downtown Florence will become a destination.