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City leaders planning to revitalize downtown Bishopville

Nearly a third of shops in downtown Bishopville are vacant. City leaders are planning to revitalize the area, starting with building renovations.

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — City leaders in Bishopville are looking to revitalize the historic downtown district. 

There are around 53 buildings in the district and 18 of them are vacant, according to Councilman Wayne Hancock.

"It was busier when I was growing up and that was in the 90’s," said Bishopville resident Hailey Garrett. "Any place can go through a time when some businesses go through a downturn, but I think it has the potential to grow for sure, especially since a lot of people are moving to South Carolina."

Hancock said the city plans on revitalizing old buildings and streetscaping with grant funding. 

"There’s certain buildings down there now, that the roofs are falling in and there’s been no attention and we’re going to address those," said Hancock.

RELATED: Officials eye future of historic downtown Bishopville

In February, the City received $900K to revitalize the former railroad depot. 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. 

There is no set date on when construction will begin or when they hope to have the revitalization and restoration complete. Meanwhile, Hancock told News 19, council members are prioritizing what needs to happen first. 

"Stabilizing the buildings first," Hancock said. "Assisting current business owners so they can continue operating, and then try to address increasing the amount of retail businesses that come downtown so we can run more foot traffic."

RELATED: Bishopville to receive $1.5M in federal coronavirus relief money

City Council is creating a plan and budget to fix the area by the new fiscal year in July. 

Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins said Bishopville is vital to the county's economy. 

"Lee County has always traditionally been basically an agricultural rural community, and we're trying to transition, we've been working on it for a number of years, to a little more industrial commercial job-based," Watkins said.

Watkins said with a more vibrant downtown area, more people will come visit and want to do business. In an effort to achieve that goal, the county is working with the city to secure more state and federal grants. 

"These are all expensive projects and so we’re working very closely with the city of Bishopville making sure, anything that we can do to help to facilitate their plans downtown, we certainly want to be apart of that," Watkins said. 

Both the city and county hope they receive enough grants so no residents will face a tax increase. Watkins said in the past 10 years, there have only been two increases.

RELATED: Hole in SC school roof draws concern; district says it's doing best it can

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