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Master plan aims to keep downtown Florence surging ahead
BY JESSICA IMBIMBO. Morning News. Mar 8, 2017

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence Downtown Development Corporation presented its updated five-year comprehensive plan on Wednesday morning. The plan focuses on the continued improvement of downtown Florence and the surrounding areas.

The updated downtown master plan is part of the 2011 Florence Comprehensive Plan which, according to state law, is required by all cities to be updated every five years.

More than 30 stakeholders and investors in downtown Florence, as well as city and county council members, attended the downtown planning retreat at Victor’s in Hotel Florence to discuss the plan and make further suggestions on how to keep downtown Florence moving in the right direction.

Tim Norwood, chairman of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation, said more than $260 million has been invested in the revitalization of downtown Florence since the 2011 downtown plan was adopted. In that time, downtown went from having 42 empty storefronts to only 11 at the start of this year.

The filled storefronts in downtown can be attributed to the addition of restaurants, bars, educational facilities, housing and office buildings. All of these things, according to downtown development manager Ray Reich, are the foundation for sustainable growth in the future. Now the Downtown Development Corporation is looking toward 2017 and beyond to see where the next priorities should lie.

“You’ve got to have a plan, and you build around the plan,” Reich said. “I think we’ve got a great start.”

Multiple large-scale projects are already in the works and set to be completed sometime in the next year or two, including the Florence County Judicial Center and the Hyatt Place hotel. Reich said the next steps in the master plan for improving the downtown area consist of enhancing downtown livability, increasing the promotion of downtown and expanding the downtown redevelopment area.

A major component of improving the livability of downtown Florence is to continue to build residential structures and increase the amount of housing available.

“If you can’t get people living downtown, it’s not sustainable,” Reich said.

Housing at the Emerson Apartments and Kress Corner has already added 100-plus units to the downtown area, and the master plan aims at deliver 350 units by 2021.

The five-year master plan references the addition of green spaces, parks, trails and other outdoor spaces to further improve the livability of downtown. The master plan also includes ways to increase branding, signage and marketing to rope in visitors passing through the Florence area heading to Myrtle Beach or via Interstate 95 or I-20. Reich and Norwood announced during the retreat that the Downtown Development Corporation will host a rebranding event for the city of Florence on March 31.

Retail growth is another priority cited in the master plan, along with the addition of another parking structure, way-finding signs, programmed events such as parades and gallery nights, among various other ideas.

Community leaders in attendance were able to vote on what they think should be the top four priorities moving forward. Those suggestions will be taken into account by Reich, Norwood and the rest of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation and presented to the Florence City Council as part of the comprehensive plan.

Last Published: March 24, 2017 1:51 PM
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