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EDITORIAL: Hotel Florence hearkens arrival of renaissance (Florence Morning News, S.C.)

Florence Morning News, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 24--Today, Hotel Florence and Victor's Bistro -- a $7.2 million investment -- open their doors to the public for the first time.

After years of rumor, months of talk and grumblings from naysayers that such an idea would never come to pass, the 49-room boutique hotel/penthouse and favorite local eatery are no longer drawings on an easel but brick-and-mortar reality.

The leadership and vision of the likes of the Raines Development group, Tim Norwood, Carolina Bank, Pearce Land Co. LLC, Mashburn Construction, CMI of Florence, local government officials and many more has taken the quest to revitalize downtown Florence to a whole new level.

The Florence renaissance is no longer something to look forward to. It is happening right now.

When the first guests of the hotel and restaurant step into a Florence evening, they will be stepping into a community in the beginnings of what could be its best days. Several years ago the area Hotel Florence now occupies was nothing more than a few shops sitting in rundown buildings. Now, there are two theatres, an art gallery, a half-dozen more restaurants, two scenic breezeways complete with a weekly farmers market, a renaissance garden and three places of worship within walking distance.

It isn't Greenville, Columbia or Charleston, but considering where the downtown was just a few months ago, the transformation is astounding.

Facades are currently being redone on what were once eyesore buildings, a new museum is being prepped for its debut in less than a year and more businesses are making a move to North Dargan and East Evans streets.

Despite the progress, there are still those who deny the downtown's chances of rebirth. Earlier this week, Florence City Councilman Ed Robinson went so far as to predict that the experiment would fail in five years, saying as he has many times in recent years that the city and business developers are going about revitalization in ways that will only hurt minorities.

Robinson's criticisms are nothing new, and even though a minority business presence remains downtown and despite the fact plans call for continued minority involvement, the councilman showed there will always be those who don't believe downtown will -- or perhaps don't want it to -- succeed no matter what.

The potential for more growth is on the horizon, with the possibility of a Francis Marion University medical campus, neighborhood revitalization and discussions on Florence City Council to build an $8 million parking deck with funds generated by the new investment through a tax increment financing (TIF) district that will be activated in 2014.

The board is set downtown and the pieces are moving. We are in the middle of Florence's rebirth.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of this newspaper. Editorial board members are: Mark Blum (Regional Publisher), Tucker Mitchell (Regional Editor), Kimberly Ginfrida (Online Editor), John Sweeney (political writer), Rebecca Ducker (Visuals Editor), Matt Tate (News Editor) and David Johnson (Regional Circulation Director).


(c)2013 the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.)

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