|By Gavin Jackson, Florence Morning News,
S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 13, 2013--FLORENCE, S.C. -- In less than 100 days another major anchor and piece in the downtown redevelopment puzzle will come into place--the opening of the Hotel Florence.
The $7.2 million, 50-room boutique hotel with a separate penthouse, complete with Victor's Bistro in the lobby area with the capacity for 275--135 in a private dining area, 70 regular seating, 30 bar seating and 40 on the back patio--represents the largest private, economic investment in the downtown area in decades.
But for Grey Raines of Raines Development group and development partners Tim Norwood (owner of Victor's Bistro), Carolina Bank, Pearce Land Co. LLC, Mashburn Construction, CMI of Florence and others involved in the historic hotel's transformation, says this hotel concept could not have become what will be one of the fanciest boutique hotels north of Charleston without a large group.
"We've had such great public investment from whether from the city or the (Drs.) Bruce and Lee Foundation or Dr. Carter and the great things they're doing at Francis Marion, it's that private sector coming in. It's the restaurant, it's the hotel, it's other retailers that are interested in the area," Raines said. "It's kind of that final piece of the puzzle to know that downtown is going to work and happen. It's here and we're glad to be playing a part of it."
The development partnership also received development and tax incentives from the city for around $901,000.
The journey to transform the building, referred to as the old Schofield Hardware building -- which actually was The Family Hotel in the early 1900s to 1925 -- has so far taken two years and three month. By mid-April, another journey will begin, one that will bring more people and businesses downtown.
"We want it to be more than a hotel, more than a restaurant. We want it to be kind of that central meeting location whether it's after work, before work, or that midday lunch meeting," Raines said. "We want it to be somewhere that people come and for locals to come and to host all sorts of meetings."
Hotel Florence and Victor's Bistro are located in a prime position to take advantage of such opportunities. A recent work population study commissioned by the Florence Downtown Development Corporation found that 13,571 workers occupy a one-mile radius of the intersection of Irby Street and Evans Street. Expanded to two miles, it reaches 9,000 more people.
Nestled just a block from that intersection, the hotel will be the most unique hotel in the area and will give visitors a taste of the "City of Character."
"I think we did 25 different case studies on looking at different hotels and why these (boutique) hotels are successful and what features are memorable, versus features that guests glance over," Raines said. "But we still can't overlook our demographic. We're going to service a lot of corporate travelers, so they still need fast internet and connectivity. You know they want the bar downstairs. It's those types of things. We still have a clientele we have to keep happy. It's that balance of being historically accurate, historically significant, but giving the guests all the modern amenities they expect."
And plush surroundings is what they'll get on the third floor, where elegant landings with soft seating will greet them in an open area that will facilitate a social atmosphere complete with details saved from the building as well as well appointed artwork.
"So many details from shipping the original windows to a refinisher in Georgia and having them packaged, steam cleaned and shipped back to us and reinstalled in their original frames, to the original wainscoting on the surrounding flooring, to the bead board ceilings, the original hardwoods will all be refinished and put back," Raines said.
Rates for single occupancy, double occupancy and suites will start in the low $100 range.
Of course estimates for a night in the grand penthouse next door to the hotel -- connected through the lobby -- will be from $299 to $599, depending on the night.
The luxurious penthouse on the second floor features grand arched windows facing the street in the master bedroom along with a master bath. Also inside is a double queen bedroom with a private bath, a large entertaining area with a large sectional sofa, dining table, wet bar and multiple televisions that will lead out to the rooftop patio.
The 1,500 square-feet below the penthouse is being developed into retail space, Raines said.
"There is nothing like this. You'd have to go to Charleston to find a suite anywhere close to this," Raines said.
(c)2013 the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.)
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