5 months after fire, Front Street ramps up for tourism

GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - There's still a lot of building debris at the site of the Front Street fire. Mayor Jack Scoville said that's largely due to asbestos found in the charred remains of businesses and homes.

"It's a very minor amount of asbestos but because of the severity of asbestos and mesothelioma, you have to be very careful, and you don't want to mess with that," Mayor Scoville said.

Scoville said an asbestos certified contractor will be on-site Monday and the work to clear the remaining debris will begin.

Seven 19th Century buildings along Front Street were burned down back on September 25, 2013 causing millions of dollars in damage, the loss over more than 100 jobs and the loss of homes for several folks who lived in the buildings.

Since that time, there's been an outpouring of support. The mayor said Georgetown received nearly $300,000 so far in state grants and private donations. They also plan to apply for some federal grant money this fall.

Drive by the site today, and you'll see workers salvaging bricks. Those bricks may be used as memorial pieces in the future.

You'll be hard pressed to find someone on Front Street that wasn't affected by the fire. Sharon Sorrels is an artist at Georgetown Art Gallery, a shop three buildings down from where the fire stopped.

"It's heartbreaking," said Sorrels. "This is a historic street and was a place where people could walk up and down the street and visit quaint shops."

But that reality is slowly being rebuilt. Many of the burned down businesses have relocated to other buildings on Front Street and the city is gearing up for tourism. The next big tourist event is a Mardi Gras celebration on March 4 and March 5 followed by the Winyah Bay Festival.

"The fire affected one half of a block and that's what people need to know," the mayor said. "This was a big hit, but there's an awful lot of other stuff going on."

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