Florence board votes to allow demolition of Trust building

FLORENCE,SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - After a five-hour public hearing, the City of Florence Design Review Board voted to allow The City of Florence to move forward with the demolition of the Trust Building.

"And what's sad too, is that it has been standing there, kind of like the beacon, watching all this wonderful redevelopment just waiting for its chance... and right when the downtown is coming back… were going to tear it down," said Agnes Wilcox, with the Florence County Historical Commission.

Wilcox is just one of the dozens of people who spoke before the City of Florence's Design Review Board, trying to persuade members not to allow the Trust Building to be demolished.

For hours, people from all different walks of life shared research, pictures and personal testimony on why or why not the Trust building should be demolished.

"Let me just say that it is very critical to the future development of this H1 district that we get this Health Science Facility in the H1," said Ray Reich, Florence Downtown Development Manager.

City leaders argued the Trust Building must come down because of the poor condition of the building and the cost of rehabilitation. They say the New Francis Marion University Medical School they want to build in its place will continue to spur development in Downtown Florence.

After the Final vote, the Chairman of the Design Review Board explained why they were in favor of the city demolishing the Trust Building.

"We look at the design guidelines and we follow those guidelines, and we make a decision based on guidelines, and that's what we have been charged to do, and that's what I believe we did," said Cary Andrews, Chairman of the Florence Design Review Board.

Chairman Cary Andrews says the City simply had a better argument and was well-prepared.

"The information submitted by the applicant was sufficient enough to meet the threshold of what we require to grant the certificate of appropriateness," Andrews said.

The debate might not be over yet - the Florence County Historical Commission said it will file an appeal to tonight's decision, hoping to save the Trust building.

"In this situation we feel very strongly that we should be protecting and preserving what little bit of heritage that we have left," Wilcox said. "We will do what we have to do. We will do whatever we can do."

On Wednesday, city leaders said they will begin looking for a demolition professional, so that the Trust Building can be demolished safely and efficiently.

Even though this decision was controversial, the Design Review Board said this was the biggest turnout they have ever seen at a public hearing.

"We're excited to see so much interest in downtown. You know, we have been doing this for eight years, and we haven't seen this kind of excitement," said Andrews.

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