BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — Lee County and the City of Bishopville received nearly a million dollars in grant funding to revitalize their historic district.
City and county councils worked with the their legislative delegation to secure $450,000 in funding through a direct state appropriation. A $450,000 grant from the Department of Commerce for economic development was also obtained with the assistance of the LINK (the County's Economic Development Partnership with Sumter County).
"We were flourishing, we were good," said Bishopville resident David Wiley. "And now, everything is no good, man. It’s no good, man."
Wiley has lived in Bishopville for more than 40 years. He said since the 1970s, the city has turned into a ghost town.
"We need help, and we need a change, man. We need change, we really do,"
Wiley said. "That money and funds that they got, I hope they do the right thing with it."
Bishopville city administrator Gregg McCutchen said the grants will help turn old vacant building into new spaces that can be used.
"It’s gonna help in the fact that we won’t have to use any local money to do this with," McCutchen said. "And therefore, we can go ahead, rather than do it in phases, we have enough money that we can initiate the project and rapidly get through with it."
McCutchen says the goal is to bring more businesses into the area. "Just anything that will survive, businesses, something that will help people."
The city is also planning to restore the former railroad deport on North Main Street and East Cedar Street, and convert it into a farmers market or a similar type venue.
Lee County administrator Alan Watkins said the former railroad deport was built and used in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
"Rail was the vital way of transportation for many decades. Lee County was a major agricultural county," Watkins said. "The railroad depot was used to bring in materials, as well as take out things like cotton and other agricultural goods that were made in the community."
He explains the depot played an important role in building Bishopville—bringing supplies that were needed for residents in the city.
"It helped paved the way for the development that came later," Watkins said. "We want to try to salvage that building."
Over the decades, the depot fell into disrepair, becoming a dilapidated building taken over by overgrown bushes.
"I’ve lived in this community for over 50 years in my life, and I have seen a single rail car come through that area," Watkins said. "So, it has not been used in many decades."
The funds are also intended to provide opportunities for community activities like a green space for outdoor recreation, concerts, or festivals. City and county leaders also plan on creating more parking spaces, and a lighted sidewalk in for people to use.
McCutchen says there is no set date on when construction will begin or when they hope to have the revitalization and restoration complete.