Florence and Lancaster recognized for revitalization and development

Congratulations to the cities of Florence and Lancaster for being recognized by the Municipal Association of South Carolina for downtown revitalization and economic development efforts. In both cases, arts and culture organizations (most of whom have been awarded S.C. Arts Commission grants over the years) played key roles in the cities’ achievements. These examples of partnerships and cooperative planning between local governments, educational institutions and arts organizations are models in how to attract new businesses and visitors.

Florence’s plan for arts and cultural development included a new library and theatre, and a soon-to-be new museum, and has culminated in the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center:

In 2005, the City of Florence hired a consultant to create a master plan for downtown redevelopment. The plan identified arts and cultural development as a necessity to encourage renewal for the city center. In the years that followed, a new library and theatre were constructed, and the city anticipates the opening of a new museum this year. But the crown jewel of these new developments is the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center, located in the heart of downtown Florence.

Francis Marion University Performing Arts CenterThe $37 million facility boasts a main stage and outdoor amphitheater, a garden courtyard, an academic wing, and upper and lower lobbies for events and receptions. It has been honored with architectural awards for its innovative use of sustainable materials.

Officials formed partnerships with private entities to secure the land and fund construction of the Center. The partnership formed between the city and the university is a mutually beneficial one. Francis Marion handles the ongoing costs and daily operation of the performing arts center and, in return, the university’s theatre and fine arts department is in the academic wing of the facility. Pee Dee residents are winners as well, as they now have a venue to enjoy musical and theatrical performances close to home.

Using culture and the arts as an economic development tool is working in Florence. After the performing arts center was constructed, a boutique hotel opened downtown. New businesses and restaurants are flourishing as well, and office and retail space in the city center is being redeveloped for new merchants.

The City of Lancaster partnered with USC Lancaster to open a new Native American Studies Center downtown, which provided more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL:

Downtown Lancaster needed an anchor. The University of South Carolina Lancaster needed space to store and showcase its large collection of Catawba pottery and artifacts. A partnership was born.

Plans for the Native American Studies Center began when Lancaster municipal officials met with community groups to discuss cultural tourism and historical assets as catalysts for downtown revitalization. They brought faculty in on the conversations. The faculty shared that they were in desperate need of more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL.

Native American Studies CenterThe City of Lancaster purchased a long-empty furniture store on Main Street using funds raised from hospitality taxes and a Duke Energy grant. Officials worked with faculty from USCL’s Native American Studies department to design classrooms, labs and galleries in the renovated space. The city improved existing parking and created additional parking areas. Working with regional tourism and preservation groups, the city then developed a marketing plan to promote the new center.

Locating a cultural attraction downtown has been a boon for tourism in Lancaster. Even better, there are more college students spending time—and dollars—in the city center. The project has been so successful that officials are working with USCL to relocate more of the University’s departments downtown. Workshops, festivals, seminars and other public events are in the works as well to draw more people to the Native American Studies Center.

A once-empty building is now a cultural asset, and downtown Lancaster is once again the center of conversation.

The awards were presented at the MASC’s annual meeting July 20.

Via: Municipal Association of South Carolina


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