SUMTER, S.C. — "Downtown is kind of the heart of a city because downtown can say a lot about the city as a whole," Sumter Downtown Development Coordinator Leigh Newman shared. "Anything you have to bring people downtown - businesses, restaurants, art - that’s just what we’re working on to get people downtown."
Whether it’s vibrant murals or community events, downtown Sumter is seeing changes constantly. This week, that means starting work on the Opera House expansion.
Seth Reimer is the presenter and cultural manager for the city of Sumter. He tells me that while the opera house is a popular attraction, it could use some updating. A couple years ago, the city purchased the building next door. Now, work has begun to remove ceiling tiles and uncover the original flooring.
"This building hasn’t been touched in…I think it was 1901 that this building was built that we’re renovating today, so that’s amazing to kind of get back to the original floor and the original ceiling and now peel back that first layer," he detailed.
Reimer tells me the goal is to expand the opera house to better serve more people. Eventually, opera house visitors may see the lobby housed in this new building. Right now, Reimer says workers are trying to preserve the original work.
"In fact, we’re taking pieces of the original tin ceiling and they’re taking it down and meticulously numbering each one 'cuz they all have to go up in the same order, so it’s a really painstaking process, but one that’s just a really amazing piece of history that we can keep and hopefully recreate or finish and be able to put back up, he said. "And it just adds a lot of character."
Chris Hardy with the Chamber of Commerce says this is important as downtown Sumter gets more attention.
"Our downtown is becoming a staple of Sumter and it’s becoming a destination of Sumter, as where 10, 15, 20 years ago that wasn’t necessarily the case," Hardy explained. "People want to be able to walk to what they do. They want to be able to walk to dinner, they want to be able to walk to have an evening out, so the more access you can give to people being able to walk to your downtown the more foot traffic you’re going to have."
Expanding different projects like the opera house can help with this, Hardy said.