Francis Marion University’s already significant presence in downtown Florence is set to grow again.
The City of Florence recently transferred ownership of the LS Rainwater Building at 142 North Dargan Street to the FMU Educational Foundation. FMU will begin work to transform the three-story structure into the new home of the Francis Marion University Kelley Center for Enterprise and Innovation and a first-floor art gallery to be curated by the FMU Department of Fine Arts with day-to-day management through the FMU Performing Arts Center.
The Kelley Center will operate a business incubator for entrepreneurs and support the City of Florence with research for business recruitment. In its expanded role the Kelley Center will provide critical assistance for business owners in the region. The art gallery will be curated and operated by the FMU Department of Fine Arts, with day-to-day management through the FMU Performing Arts Center.
The Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation will be providing funding for the renovation of the building.
Dr. Fred Carter, FMU’s president, hailed yet another step in the University’s ongoing partnership with the city, and with the revitalization of Florence’s downtown.
“The importance of the relationship between FMU and the City of Florence cannot be understated,” says Carter. “Collaborations between these two entities have led to new programs, new facilities and new achievements that continue to benefit the community and its people. The new, expanded Kelley Center, and this extraordinary art gallery will be terrific additions that will further enhance this tradition. And, as usual, our friends at the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation will help provide resources to make this happen. It’s a great partnership.”
Added Florence Mayor Stephen J. Wukela, “This project represents yet another example of the successful partnership between FMU, the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation, and the city advancing the community.”
The Rainwater Building will be the University’s fifth downtown facility. FMU has already completed the FMU Performing Arts Center, the Luther F. Carter Center for Health Sciences and the FMU Recording Studio. Renovation work on the Old Post Office Building, which will be used for additional classroom space by the FMU School of Health Sciences, is set to begin soon.
The historic Rainwater building is a three-story, 17,000 square-foot building. The city obtained the building several years ago as part of its downtown revitalization plan, and has already invested in an initial phase of renovations on the first floor of the building.
A significant donation from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation will allow the remaining renovations to be completed within a year. When complete, the project will reflect a $2.7 million investment into downtown Florence.
The Kelley Center for Enterprise and Innovation has operated in downtown Florence since 2016, providing business incubation services, post-launch assistance, technical support, and enterprise development aid to new and expanding businesses throughout the Pee Dee.
The facility will formally be owned by the Francis Marion University Education Foundation and operated by FMU.
The new art gallery will provide exhibition space for local artists across a spectrum of artistic disciplines to showcase their work. The gallery will also serve as another downtown event space.