‘Great American Main Street Award’ honors downtown Florence
FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - Florence’s downtown was awarded the 2023 Great American Main Street Award for excellence.
Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) recognizes communities for their excellence in comprehensive preservation-based commercial district revitalization.
Downtown Florence Main Street is recognized for developing innovative and forward-thinking approaches to creating community buy-in through representative leadership and inclusive programming.
”Downtown Florence Main Street sets a national standard for downtown revitalization rooted in community connections,” said Main Street America Interim President and CEO, Hannah White. “Their success demonstrates the power of creative approaches to engaging stakeholders, creating a strong culture of volunteerism, and fostering pathways to increased downtown housing, while also championing the preservation of historic community assets.”
For decades, the area suffered from a negative public perception fueled by empty storefronts, racial divides, and a practice of demolishing neglected, yet culturally significant, buildings in favor of new construction.
Efforts to address these issues began in 2002 with limited success, until the organization began implementing a community-informed revitalization plan in 2011.
Through initiatives, dedicated volunteers, established partnerships, and support catalytic projects, this plan generated over 100 units of new housing, $300 million in investment, and over 90 new businesses.
”Being selected as a winner of the 2023 Great American Main Street Award is an unbelievable honor—it’s the once-in-a-lifetime achievement representing the boundless investment, hard work, tenacity, and vision from local investors and partners, small business owners and residents, government officials and leaders, and our statewide Main Street network over the last twenty years—and especially over the last decade,” remarked Hannah L. Davis, Main Street Program Manager at Downtown Florence Main Street. “Once described as too far gone to be saved, Downtown Florence has become the place to be, to live, and to do business in our region, and we aren’t done yet!”
The newly installed North Dargan Street Mural is the latest in the organization’s efforts to honor the legacy of Black entrepreneurship, enhance the downtown’s African American Historic Business District, and foster community trust.
”Florence winning GAMSA is a tremendous achievement. The Downtown Florence Main Street team models exemplary revitalization with strong partnerships, visible transformation, and a commitment to historic preservation,” said Jenny Boulware, State Coordinator at Main Street South Carolina. “Downtown Florence has brought a new level of respect and awareness to the power of the Main Street Approach across South Carolina and throughout our southern region. We are excited to celebrate this prestigious win – and how fitting for it to be awarded during the state Main Street network’s fortieth year.”
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