FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Francis Marion University is purchasing and renovating the old post office on Evan and Irby streets in Florence, with the help of three donors, to help expand several of the school's medical programs.
"We will close the deal this Wednesday, and we are very, very excited being able to add that to a number of venues we have on campus to offer quality instruction," said FMU president Dr. Fred Carter.
The purchase was announced at a news conference Monday morning at FMU's Performing Arts Center. The development had only been known as "Project T" until Monday.
FMU had looked at the property, located across from the new Luther Carter Health Services building, for a couple of years, and decided it was logical to expand right in downtown Florence next to the new building.
FMU currently has 250 health science students enrolled in nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs, as well as for third and fourth-year medical students and clinical psychologists.
Carter added the expansion of the old post office building will cost approximately $8 million dollars to renovate the inside of the old post office building.
"When you look at the beauty of that building, the historic significance and the fact that we wont be putting up new walls and the like. Most of the renovation will go into of course classroom use, laboratory use," stated Carter.
Over the next five years Carter said he hopes the building will hold a behavioral health clinic, a speech therapy program, an occupational therapy and physical therapy program
"It's remarkable that Francis Marion is leading this collaboration with the city, Dr.'s Bruce and Lee Foundation in downtown for the past decade," said Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela. "This is a very natural expansion of these educational offerings in downtown Florence."
Dr.'s Bruce and Lee Foundation donated $1.3 million, and the FMU Development Foundation added $1.2 million to help acquire the building.
"The $1.2 million the city is contributing said this investment will pay in enormous dividends and into the growing tax base," Wukela said. "We treat it as other economic development projects and analyze the return of investment."
The plan is to move programs into the building by the beginning of 2018, university officials said.