Group drops lawsuit against Florence, path clear for Trust building demolition

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The Historic Florence Foundation has dropped its lawsuit against the City of Florence, clearing the way for the demolition of the Trust building in Downtown Florence.

The Historic Florence Foundation was scheduled to fight the City of Florence in court Wednesday, because the city wanted to demolish the Trust building to make way for a new medical school.

Agnes Wilcox, the woman spearheading the effort to save the Trust building, confirmed that she has dropped the appeal against the Florence Design Review Board's decision to allow the Trust building to be demolished.

Wilcox said that after a review of similar cases in the state, the Historic Florence Foundation has determined that if the case went to court, a judge would say the non-profit has no legal standing, because it does not own any property near or around the Trust Building.

City manager Drew Griffin released this statement after the lawsuit was halted:

Obviously, the City felt it had a strong case before the City's Design Review Board in support of the demolition. However, the decision to drop the appeal is appreciated by the City. The recent ruling by the SC Supreme Court in favor of Carnival Corporation and the City of Charleston certainly clarified the position of who has legal standing in these type of cases and was an important decision to the City regarding the appeal.

The City is moving forward with the demolition and we maintain our position regarding the "correctness" of the action of the Design Review Board and the benefits that the new FMU Health and Science Building will have to the City and in particular to the continued success of our downtown.

Back in February, Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said that in spite of the pending lawsuit, the city had moved forward with plans to construct Francis Marion University's new Health and Sciences building.

"The classrooms at the City Center will have a lecture that is being channeled from the main medical school in Columbia," said Dr. William Hester, Assistant Dean of Medical Student Education, Florence Campus.

Since the new Francis Marion University Health and Sciences Building isn't complete yet, students will learn on the 4th floor of the City Center. A conference room and two offices are undergoing renovations, paid for by FMU.

The space is expected to house the 10 to 16 medical students learning in Florence this fall.

Dr. William Hester said it looks like the first batch of students to come this fall will complete their 3rd and 4th years in the space allotted in the City Center, because the Health and Sciences building is not expected to be complete until fall 2016.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.