FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - As 2017 comes to an end, WMBF News talked local mayors about what they wanted to see happen in their community in 2018.
Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela remembers when the city of Florence was a ghost town.
"In 2007 downtown was bordered up and abandoned," said Mayor Wukela. "It was an area that was deteriorating. It was an area that Florentines avoided. "
Florence has since flourished into a thriving city. Over the past years, the city has seen a huge growth in businesses and downtown development. Mayor Wukela said he doesn't expect it slow down anytime soon.
In 2018, you can expect to see projects around the city completed.
"You will see continued growth downtown, completion of the Hyatt hotel downtown, completion of the Carolina bank," said Mayor Wukela.
Another highly-anticipated project almost ready to open is the Florence Soccer Complex at the intersection of I-95 and West Palmetto street. The $7 million project has 14 soccer fields.
Mayor Wukela said parks and recreation is a focus for the coming year. The city borrowed $15 million to renovate parks around town.
"Over the last 10 years we've had some deferred maintenance on that system," said Mayor Wukela. "We're now emerging from that somewhat and we now have the ability to make those renovations and improvements that we would have like to have made sometime ago."
Along with renovations are expansions.
Mayor Wukela hopes to expand downtown Florence on South Dargan Street and West Evans Street from businesses to housing.
"What you will see is continued development of residential space, which has become very much in demand right now in downtown followed by growth in retail," said Mayor Wukela.
Mayor Wukela said a thriving downtown is key to a boom in business.
"When those industries are looking at Florence, they want to know whether their executives and their executive families are going to want to live in this community," said Mayor Wukela.
Whether it's businesses, locals, or visitors, when asked what he wants people to think of when they think of Florence, Mayor Wukela simply said a city moving forward.
"You know what's striking to a lot of folks from the outside when they come to Florence is how much it's changed in a positive way and that reputation I think is starting to circulate in a strong way throughout the state, throughout the region and we certainly like to see that continue," said Mayor Wukela.