FLORENCE, S.C. – The city of Florence recently took a step toward expanding the city’s revitalization and growth of its downtown.

On Monday, the city council voted unanimously to approve on second reading Bill No. 2019-21, which creates and implements the Irby Street Overlay District in the city’s unified development code. The city also approved Resolution 2019-15, which expands the geographic boundaries for business incentives to include the Irby Street district.

Where is the new district?

The Irby Street district is divided into two parts: a northern part running north along Irby Street from N.B. Baroody Street to West Lucas Street and a southern part running south on Irby Street from Cheves Street to Cherokee Road.

The new overlay district is the eighth overlay district in the city’s downtown, joining the redevelopment district, the central district, the arts and cultural district, the Timrod Park residential district, the historic district, the neighborhood revitalization district, and the food and warehouse district.

Why is the district necessary?

Florence City Manager Drew Griffin recently told the Morning News that the city had started to work on revitalization in the downtown area in 2005. The long-term goal, he said, was to expand the revitalization efforts along the major corridors, connecting the downtown core to the Five Points area and the area along David McLeod Boulevard, thus connecting the three major economic areas of the city together.

The Irby Street district will connect the city’s downtown to Interstate 95 at Exit 164 via West Lucas Street and at Exit 169 via North Irby Street/TV Road, the Five Points area via West Palmetto Street or West Evans Street, and the David McLeod Boulevard area via West Evans Street or Darlington Street/Hoffmeyer Road.

North Irby Street also carries U.S. 52 from West Lucas until the edge of the city’s current boundaries. U.S. 52 runs from the Canadian border with Minnesota to Charleston. It is a major corridor connecting the Midwest to the Southeast.

Also, the district provides regulations for the construction and redevelopment of businesses along Irby Street, providing a uniform, more attractive look for one of the city’s major corridors.

What incentives does the city offer businesses coming to the district?

The city offers a number of incentives for businesses in the downtown including a façade grant of up to $10,000 with a 50% match by the owners to improve the exterior appearance of a building, a low-interest loan of up to $250,000 for purchasing a property or building renovations, a micro-loan of up to $15,000 for renovations or operational purposes, utility incentives, and several grants related to historical buildings.

There are also state and federal incentives available.

Are there any more districts planned?

City Councilman George Jebaily said he was excited about the corridor upon first reading of the bill. He hinted that another district along West Evans could be coming soon.

That district would directly connect the downtown to David McLeod Boulevard and the Five Points area via West Evans Street.

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Government and Poltics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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