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The Judicial Center is moving ahead quickly.  From the Morning News:

 

 http://www.scnow.com/news/local/article_1bf21040-fe94-11e4-9186-4b5734206643.html

 

FLORENCE, S.C. – After at least a decade of discussions, studies, meetings and planning , the Florence County Council is set to approve up to $42 million in bonds for a new judicial center.

The council will hold a public hearing and discuss the details of those installment purchase revenue bonds to fund the proposed judicial center.

The center is planned to be built across from the County Complex on $3 million worth of land the county has acquired over the years. Several offices will remain in the 46-year-old County Complex, which is undergoing minor renovations, but courtrooms on the fourth, fifth, tenth and eleventh floors will move.

The council meets at 9 a.m. Thursday in Room 803 of the County Complex.

Supporters and critics are expected to turn out to have their say on the need and funding for the judicial center before the council votes on how it will structure taxes for the bond and other details such as the term of the bond.

The debate surrounding the proposed judicial center reached a fever pitch last Monday, but that could be surpassed Thursday if people start swearing and getting heated as they did at the Florence County GOP-sponsored meeting on the judicial center. At that meeting, Florence County Treasurer Dean Fowler cursed Council Vice Chairman James Schofield over current County Complex conditions, specifically in his department.

The council has held several work sessions in which it discussed the funding for the proposed 120,500-square-foot building, but a definitive funding structure has not emerged yet.

The first option to repay the installment purchase revenue bonds was presented with the ordinance at introduction in April. County staff proposed applying the 3.5 mills that expire on the detention center debt millage in 2018 along with a 3-mill tax increase at that time. The combination totals the 6.5 mills needed for debt service repayment.

Councilman Willard Dorriety Jr. asked county finance director Kevin Yokim to find other options in April. Weeks later, Yokim said the council could levy one mill next year (beginning July 1) and then increase it another 3 more mills in 2016-17. In five years that millage could be reduced by 0.8 mills and would save $3.5 million over the life of the bond.

If the council chose not to reduce millage by that 0.8 mill in 2020, the bond term could be shortened from 25 years to 20 years and save $9.5 million total.

Schofield advocated the original plan, because taxes wouldn’t increase until the detention center millage expired in three years. Capitalized interest would repay the bond until taxes were levied. Schofield was warm toward earlier tax increases.

There is a 1.6 - mill tax increase in the proposed $54.7 million budget. A public hearing on the budget ordinance is also scheduled for the May meeting Thursday.

The county’s bond attorney, Ben Zeigler, told councilmen last Thursday that outstanding judicial center bond debt could legally be part of the next penny sales tax referendum. Such a referendum is expected again, but the council would again solicit views on the projects before putting a formal list before voters in November 2020.

Plans for the judicial center were drawn up by the architecture firm Stevens and Wilkinson in conjunction with Justice Planning Associates, both of Columbia, and Florence-based Goforth Brown and Associates.

Architect Dewey Ervin showed off design plans for the three-story building in an April council committee meeting. The center features three different circulation areas for the public, prisoners and secured space.

“The current facility is way out of whack as far as current standards for courthouse design,” Ervin said. “Those three levels of circulation never cross until they meet in a courtroom. That’s critical and is currently lacking in the current structure.”

Stevens and Wilkinson received unanimous support from the council in a February 11, 2014, work session to move forward with design plans for a new judicial center.

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The Judicial Center building itself is pretty solid. I think it will be a good addition to downtown, though I always hate the idea of tearing down old buildings to make way for it.

 

I also agree that the site layout it weird. The setback feels too suburban with all of that grass. The building across the street has more of a plaza space, which I like better in a downtown setting.

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http://meetings.cityofflorence.com/DocumentLibraryManager/dl/Complete%20Agenda%2006-08-2015.pdf

 

Start at page 88 in the link.

 

 

Several changes coming to McLeod campus.  A new administration building, a New Emergency department that will extend off of the Pavilion, a new parking deck, a new Stokes Eye facility and demolition of the old one.  Jarrott Street will be turned into a Boulevard.  

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Drove around DT yesterday and it is truly amazing how much has changed in the last few years. It seems nearly every building on West Evans has been renovated or is underway.  If you haven't seen it is the last three years, i think you will not recognize it today.  It was not that long ago, the entire area seemed completely down-trodden.    

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This is really exciting!

http://www.scnow.com/news/education/article_6eb2e964-cad9-11e5-8688-7b567415eb68.html

FLORENCE, S.C. — If all goes as planned, Florence will be home to a renovated McClenaghan High School, Poynor Adult Education Center and R.N. Beck Child Development Center in five years.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, administration officials of Florence School District One, the city of Florence and Francis Marion University announced a partnership to renovate the three buildings and start a magnet high school for the arts and health sciences. All of the plans would be subject to approval from the governing boards of each entity.

Florence One owns Poynor and McClenaghan but currently only Poynor is in use. Money from the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District would allow the district to renovate and repurpose these facilities.

Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela said this partnership will help all members of the community.

“This is an exciting initiative that will enhance educational opportunities here in Florence District One and the city of Florence and will accelerate downtown redevelopment, and indeed, neighborhood redevelopment,” Wukela said.

The partnership will unfold on three levels.

“The school district will renovate and redevelop the McClenaghan building on Dargan Street and locate district offices there as well as the adult education facility that is currently housed in (Poynor),” Wukela said. “They will also rebuild the Beck Early Childhood Center in Northwest Florence that is fantastically important to this city and will continue to provide early childhood education for young people in this community. They will renovate and redevelop (Poynor) and provide a magnet school in this location.”

Florence One Board of Trustees Chairman Porter Stewart said the board is eager to partner with two other entities working to make Florence a better community.

“This cooperative effort speaks to areas of interest for the city and for the school district,” Stewart said. “Certainly with it we can substantially increase the quality of life for citizens in this community, specifically in the northwest community at the Beck Early Education Center by being able to develop a state-of-the-art there that will be a flagship for this district as we move forward with our comprehensive early childhood program.”

Having TIF money available to the district will allow it to continue its building program and start on these other areas of interest.

“Finding a mechanism whereby we can address the renovation and redevelopment of McClenaghan, which the district has had possession and ownership of for the last few years, is a major accomplishment, together with the renovation and repurposing of (Poynor) which last enjoyed a renovation over a generation ago,” Stewart said. “What we are envisioning then, with respect to South Dargan Street, is a renaissance of educational opportunities in this part of the community.”

Stewart said the buildings, which where once "flagships" of the local educational community, will have new life breathed into them.

Details about who would be able to attend the magnet school have not been fully ironed out. The students who do attend will get college-level education in the arts and health sciences fields while still attending high school.

“A couple of generations ago downtown is where we had high school students and drawing students from all three of our high schools we will achieve that again,” Stewart said. “(Francis Marion) has a huge arts presence right next door. That should and will provide opportunities for students to enhance those educational opportunities hopefully as they matriculate right up into the university. What we are talking about is something that has never been done before.”

Francis Marion University President Fred Carter said the university is happy to be part of everything that is taking place downtown.

“The university came into the city four and a half years ago,” Carter said. “It was one of the smartest things we ever did as a university. I think everybody, my board of trustees, my faculty and staff fully appreciate the fact that this has made us closer to the city of Florence.”

With the Performing Arts Center already open and another FMU facility soon to follow, Carter said, the university is ready to start another chapter downtown.

“In six months, five months, the new health sciences center will open,” Carter said. “This magnet high school becomes the third major area where I feel the university can contribute to the city, to its growth, to its revitalization; I’m especially proud that that involves an even stronger collaboration partnership with Florence District One.”

Carter said FMU serves the entire Pee Dee region and he would love to see students in all of those communities have a chance to attend the magnet school.

If the plans are approved, McClenaghan would be the first to be renovated on Dargan Street. Once completed, the programs at Poynor would be moved and renovation would begin there.

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On the city council agenda from 4/11 were two interesting items:

Conveyance of property DT from the city to Francis Marion University for a Therapy building.  FMU is currently finishing up construction of it's second major building DT and this would be a third.  Exact location was not provided.

A 214 acre annexation for parcels lying between I-95 and Ebenezer Road would be the biggest annexation in the last few years. It is vacant but would be developed for commercial and residential purposes.   

 

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Drove through DT this weekend.

I can't believe the difference between today and say 6 years ago.  The NW corner of Dargan/Evans looks terrific. The building on the corner that will be the Town Hall restaurant especially pops.  It seems every storefront on North Dargan is being worked on.

There are a lot of nice DTs in SC, but considering how much of the old building stock had been lost, the lack of a river or park to build around, and the small city size, Florence has really made an amazing turn around. Can't wait til the storefronts are all filled.    

   

 

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It's been a while since I've posted, but I'll add some recent photos of downtown. Some of the pics were taken on the fly, thus some window glare.

The new TownHall restaurant on the refurbished Dargan/Evans corner is a huge improvement over the pink monstrosity it replaced

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Evans Street. Fiasco italian restaurant is on the right.

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New FMU Medical Sciences Bldg on right

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Cheves St looking west. New McLeod building on right. The McLeod campus now extends up to Kemp St

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New Judicial Center going up across from the County Complex

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New apartments on the corner of Irby & Cheves

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Edited by flotown

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