GAVIN JACKSON, Morning News | Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 8:33 pm
FLORENCE, S.C. — Downtown development interest continues to expand as now North Dargan Street begins to see more movement, especially with the recent purchase of a building by an investment group on the block.
N & R, made up of John R. Etheridge, Kevin Etheridge and Victor Webster, recently closed on the three-story, nearly 17,000-square-foot building at 142 N. Dargan St. The unoccupied building, formerly the Rainwater Furniture store, is zoned for mixed use and the group has plans to utilize it as such, but right now Webster said they’re focused on the ground floor space.
“Our short-term goal is to renovate and attract a tenant downstairs, to have an anchor tenant,” Webster said. “Then the upstairs we’ve kicked around maybe doing an antique mall on the second and third floor. I think our long-term goal would be putting apartments up here on the second and third floor. We have room for four apartments on each floor.”
The building, built in 1939, is in better shape than many downtown buildings, boasting a solid roof, structural integrity, a decent brick façade and a sprinkler system already in place. Workers were already fixing up the roughly 6,000-square-foot ground floor space, part of a renovation the group will do in parts. Webster estimates the renovation will take $200,000 for the entire building, keeping it as close to original as possible.
“As historically accurate as I can, that’s what I want to do, bring it back to the way it was,” Webster said. “I’ve got a little saying I came up with when I started doing this: ‘Out with the old and in with the older,’ meaning getting everything that was put on here in the ‘60s and ‘70s off and putting it back to its original state.”
Webster is no stranger to Dargan Street, co-owning the Thai House 2 restaurant building at 168 S. Dargan St. with Bo Osborne. Webster said moving toward the northern part of Dargan Street is the next frontier for the downtown.
“The natural revitalization progression will be on North Dargan Street,” Webster said. “There are properties still for sale on this section of Dargan, and investors talk to me on a weekly basis about property available on this end.”
Neighboring the building is the North Dargan Street Innovation Center, the city’s business incubator headed by director Shelby Jenerette. Across the street work is happening at 137 N. Dargan St. where it is rumored a restaurant will be opening.
Kevin Etheridge, attorney with the Gardner Law Firm, said it was the right time to get involved with downtown for him and his brother.
“We are completely aware that a lot of folks were instrumental in turning downtown Florence around. We can’t thank them enough,” Etheridge said. “Mayor Wukela, the city council and numerous local business leaders should be commended for the job they have done. We are very thankful for the extraordinary efforts they have taken on behalf of our city.”
N & R didn’t provide the purchase price of the building, but property records show that prior owner Don Pattillo paid $84,000 for it in Sept. 1997.
Beginning next year building owners on the 100 block of North Dargan will be required to bring their facades into compliance with downtown appearance codes.