Investors, business owners say the future is bright for downtown Florence

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – City leaders in Florence have been working to revitalize downtown since 2011.

On Wednesday, business owners and city council members met for the Downtown Planning Retreat where investors in the area brainstormed how to continue the growth in downtown Florence.

A year and a half ago, Bo Osborne and his wife opened Consider the Lilies, a flower, gift and antique shop in downtown Florence. Osborne says he’s been a part of the downtown revitalization project since the very beginning

“It’s happening so fast though that we’re having the growing pains. A lot of the buildings are under renovation at this time and also getting people down here,” said Bo Osborne, co-owner of Consider the Lilies.

Downtown Development Manager Ray Reich says $84 million is already planned in downtown investments for this year with the projects like the FMU expansion and several businesses coming to the area like the Hyatt Hotel, Carolina Bank and the Florence County Judicial Center.

As the new growth begins to bloom, the 30 attendees of the planning retreat say one of their highest priorities is marketing all of the work put into the downtown area.

Topics like how to market downtown as a tourist destination by promoting cultural attractions, festivals and marketing to sport tourists at the soccer or tennis complex were mentioned in the meeting several  times.

“Our highest priority is for people that live our area as well as travelers along I-95 and 20 that they understand that we are a destination here in Florence. We have multiple hotels in the area, particularly in downtown Florence. We have all kind of locally owned restaurants and shops. Having those people understand that we are here will make a big difference to the owners of the businesses,” Tim Norwood, chairman with the Florence Downtown Development Corporation said.

From the standpoint of a business owner, Osborne says he is proud of how far the project has come and he is optimistic about the growth ahead.

“We’ve been struggling to try to start a business in a changing or coming about downtown. A year or two from now will be a different story,” said Osborne.

Parking, housing and walk ability were also mentioned by investors at the meeting.

At the end of the retreat, business owners and city leaders voted on what they want to prioritize for the master plan moving forward. Ray Reich with the Downtown Development Corporation says the results from the vote will be tallied by Monday of next week.