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The City of Florence received a Municipal Achievement Award for its performing arts center. Officials were presented with the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's 73rd Annual Meeting on July 20. The city won in the economic development category. Thirty-three cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
In 2005, the City of Florence hired a consultant to create a master plan for downtown redevelopment. The plan identified arts and cultural development as a necessity to encourage renewal for the city center. In the years that followed, a new library and theatre were constructed, and the city anticipates the opening of a new museum this year. But the crown jewel of these new developments is the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center, located in the heart of downtown Florence.
The $37 million facility boasts a main stage and outdoor amphitheater, a garden courtyard, an academic wing, and upper and lower lobbies for events and receptions. It has been honored with architectural awards for its innovative use of sustainable materials.
Officials formed partnerships with private entities to secure the land and fund construction of the Center. Francis Marion handles the ongoing costs and daily operation of the performing arts center and, in return, the university's theatre and fine arts department is in the academic wing of the facility.
Using culture and the arts as an economic development tool is working in Florence. After the performing arts center was constructed, a boutique hotel opened downtown. New businesses and restaurants are flourishing as well, and office and retail space in the city center is being redeveloped for new merchants.
"The performing arts center is an example of how a successful downtown redevelopment plan can bring residents and visitors to downtown to enjoy all of the cultural amenities of a hometown ," said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.
Achievement Award winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.