FLORENCE, S.C. -- Carolina Bank will be one of the next major additions to Florence’s vibrant downtown revitalization effort.
Carolina Bank, founded in Lamar more than 80 years ago, is a family-owned bank that has 14 locations in the state of South Carolina.
Last year, the bank announced that it would be taking over the former Art Trail Gallery at 185 W. Evans St. for its new company headquarters in an estimated $4.5 million investment and expansion in downtown Florence.
The original plan was for construction to be completed and for the bank to move into the new building in December 2017.
Jamie Morphis, senior vice president of Carolina Bank, said it got behind schedule because of some permitting and a water problem.
Morphis said the bank is now looking to move into the building in September 2018. Carolina Bank will have its broker, insurance and mortgage offices in the downtown building, as well as a bank and administrative offices.
“We’re very excited for both us and the community,” Morphis said. “We’re really looking forward to the new location and love the progress that we’ve seen downtown.”
Morphis said that the Florence County and city offices should be given credit for much of the downtown revitalization.
“Historically, cities and counties have been difficult to work with,” Morphis said. “I really want to commend the city and the county of Florence, because they’ve been proactive in assisting businesses and making a commitment to downtown. They’ve been very considerate and have really made it work.”
Carolina Bank is adding a third floor to the building to keep with the bank’s historical character. Although the bank will not be able to keep the train mural on the North Irby Street side of the building, Morphis said, it will try to keep a natural look to the building.
“Before we ever made a decision, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t any historical marker, and we didn’t find anything,” Morphis said. “There was really no way to make that work. We hope to have artwork in there that is indigenous to the region, and we want to keep as much of the stuff natural as possible. Given the water issue, some things just weren’t practical.”
Morphis said the move to downtown Florence just made sense for the bank.
“We’ve made a commitment to the Pee Dee region, and we’ve seen Florence has had major growth,” Morphis said. “We’ve been in partnership with many of the businesses downtown. We’ve done financing with them and helped in making decisions. We decided to put the money in our largest market where we feel we have the greatest potential and this location just made sense.”
Morphis said that the difference in Carolina Bank rests in the fact that it has been locally owned and operated.
“We can make decisions that many other banks can’t, because our corporate offices are right here,” Morphis said. “For these communities that we serve, we want someone to have a bank that they can trust. We’re in the business of helping our businesses grow and assisting our customers in any way that we can.”