Leaders praise East Palmetto Street redevelopment
Land will be used for expansion of Levy Park
An East Palmetto Street “eyesore” is now step closer to being demolished and replaced with an expanded Levy Park thanks to a partnership between Florence, the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation and McLeod Health.
City leaders held a press conference Friday to make the announcement regarding the Francis Marion Inn Restaurant and Lounge, which is located at 1300 E. Palmetto St. The former inn is adjacent to a city park and across the street from the McLeod Health campus.
“The acquisition of the property became a possibility in late 2021,” according to a media advisory from the city. “Recognizing the opportunity to improve a significant gateway entrance into Florence, the city worked closely with three great partners to address a corridor concern that had been highlighted in master plans for decades. “Both Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation and McLeod Health. immediately expressed interest in working with the city to provide grant funding to facilitate the acquisition of the property to support enhancement of the eastern corridor to Florence.”
This project is an excellent example of the success that comes from public and private community partnerships and the benefit it brings to both city and county residents,” according to the media advisory.
The press conference took place in the parking lot behind the former motel.
“This is really a good morning,” said Florence City Councilperson Pat Gibson-Hye Moore. “To see what’s happened today, I’ve been waiting for this partnership for a long time.”
Gibson-Hye Moore has been a proponent of doing something about the old motel for some time.
“I remember the day it closed, the owner came over to Levy Park and he said, ‘Pat, I’m not going to open back up again but I left everything in there.’ Before you know it, people broke into it. They took all the copper from the walls. They destroyed the place.
” With the blessing of the then-owner and the city, the Florence’s Dope Art Initiative adopted the old motel and painted several murals on it in the summer of 2020.
“The removal of the existing blighted property and park expansion will also enhance neighborhood beautification and the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhoods,” according to the city’s advisory.
“As an important gateway corridor into our city, redevelopment and beautification of this location will create a better, more appealing entrance to Florence for travelers coming from (Florence) regional airport and points east, as well as a better, safer environment for our neighbors who use Levy Park,” said McLeod Health Board of Trustees Chairman Ben Zeigler.
Florence City Manager Randy Osterman said the city still has work with DHEC to do before it can start on demolition, but asbestos abatement could start as soon as the middle of May and demolition by the early June.
During the press conference, Zeigler stated the foundation and the hospital each contributed $358,000 — $717,000 total — to purchase the property with the city and county to handle demolition and redevelopment.
“Florence County and the city of Florence will provide additional funds to remove the structures on this property and the city of Florence will develop this property into an expansion of Levy Park and maintain that expansion for this generation and for generations to come,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler said the park was named in honor of Dr. J.R. Levy, a contemporary to Dr. F.H. McLeod, founder of McLeod Health. He said Levy was a leader in the city’s health community until in his death in 1936. He said it is a fitting step to link Levy Park with the McLeod campus.