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​Downtown Florence: What a Comeback!

The City of Florence once had a downtown that some had described as "a drunk too far gone to be saved" and others considered too risky for private investment. Three failed attempts to revitalize the city's downtown led to a wakeup call when a perceived lack of amenities and vibrancy contributed to the city's inability to attract two large industrial prospects. Making things worse, two major healthcare facilities struggled to recruit personnel and physicians for the same reasons.

Simply put, the city needed an inviting downtown to attract a workforce and could no longer expect cosmetic improvements to the downtown to make a lasting difference.

The solution: a Downtown Master Plan, adopted in 2011 with a five-year implementation timeline that started in 2013. City leaders drew on information from community focus groups, interviews and a citizens' delegation to help inform the plan. Other planning efforts were expanded to include housing, public spaces, employment, mobility, infrastructure and economic development. Goals addressed socioeconomic, physical and cultural aspects of revitalization.

"Small win" landmarks acted as catalysts, spurring a change in public perception and inviting additional investment. Restauranteurs, hoteliers, small business owners and cultural entities then sought opportunities in the city's downtown.

Because downtown development never truly stops, the city's updated master plan will prioritize a new geographic area for redevelopment and identify private sector investors. The next steps will include making streetscape enhancements, adding parking, recruiting niche retail, creating more housing, developing a food/artisan overlay district and establishing the downtown as a tourism destination. Ultimately, the downtown will link to the city's existing trail system to encourage pedestrian traffic.

Contact Drew Griffin at dgriffin@cityofflorence.com or 843.665.3113.