2014 to bring big changes to Downtown Florence

FLORENCE,SC (WMBF) - 2013 brought major changes for Downtown Florence, and leaders say millions of dollars in updates will be seen, as we move forward into 2014.

Two businesses, Victor's Bistro and Hotel Florence, have been credited with helping to jump start all of the big changes happening in Downtown Florence.

"Business has been tremendous. The community has been supportive. A lot of people think it was risky, and today it is still risky," said Tim Norwood. Tim Norwood and his wife are owners of Victor's Bistro and part owners of Hotel Florence. Victor's Bistro is the restaurant occupying the first floor of Hotel Florence.

"We were looking for a place to move Victor's downtown, and then we happened across this building. The partners and I and it just made sense for Victor's and the hotel to work together," said Norwood.

This past May, Norwood left his old location on Irby Street and settled in to the new building, which in total, underwent $8 million in renovations and is run by five different partners.

Take a walk downtown and you can see other investors jumping on board.

Just this past year we learned, 2014, will bring greater transformation to Downtown Florence –which was once full of blight.

"And then, next year, just across the street, we have a group of investors who are opening up a restaurant, a vodka distillery, law offices," said Norwood.

And it doesn't stop there. Early this year renovations will begin on three buildings along North Dargan Street, which will bring apartments, a sauce manufacture, and around 100 jobs to Downtown Florence.

Over and over, city leaders have said Hotel Florence has been a key player in helping to revitalize downtown Florence. Norwood said it's humbling to be a part of the new life in the downtown area.

"Well, it's humbling, because so many people walk in here and they say we can't believe we are in Florence. And that is so gratifying to me and the partners that we have been able to tip the scales so that downtown Florence will be able to have the growth that everyone here wants to have," said Norwood.

City Leaders are using tax money, generated by the new businesses downtown, to build a new $4 million community gym, and construction on that project will begin sometime this year.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.