Francis Marion University looks to renovate old post office with state funds

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Renovations planned for an old post office in downtown Florence are on hold after Francis Marion University announced the multi-million-dollar project last February.

University officials said they expected to start moving into the old post office building this year, but they're still waiting on the funds to move forward with the project.

FMU President Dr. Fred Carter said with the building now in their name, the university is working to come up with the money needed to renovate the building that will house new and current university programs.

"We would love to get the money as soon as possible," Carter said. "It will provide class space and office space and instructional space for the next four or five health science programs at Francis Marion so it's a good investment."

Donors purchased the building for $3.7 million. With the addition of $8 million in renovations, all together the project costs over $11 million.

Carter said the university is working with state leaders to secure legislative funding for the renovations.

"It's great for the university to be able to get that building. It's right across the street from out health science building here. It's a wonderful location for the expansion of our health sciences programs," Carter said.

The building dates back to 1906, making it a historical landmark in downtown Florence. In the past, it housed the post office and the city's federal courtroom.

The history of the building is one of the reasons Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela says the city donated $1.2 million of the $3.7 million to purchase it for the university last year.

"The post office is certainly a building that's critical, that's central to the historic district and that was in good shape and could be maintained and renovated and that preserves then the historic integrity of downtown," Wukela said.

Still, university officials say it is not ready to be moved into. The majority of the renovating will go toward making the abandoned building fit for classrooms and office space.

Ultimately, Carter said the project will bring a historic building back to life.

"It's a wonderful treasure for the city of Florence and being able to preserve that treasure into the future and have the university operate it works well for everyone," he said.

Carter said once they get the funds, the university should be ready to begin renovating within six months.

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