Downtown Florence businesses could be forced to fix-up

Downtown buildings like this one would have to be repaired if the new ordinance is passed.

A proposed ordinance in Florence would require property owners to fix up their buildings.

Some of the downtown buildings date back to the 1800's, and some of them are showing their age.

"Nobody wants to have their building in a commercial district with blight," said Ray Reich, Florence's downtown director.

City council is considering a maintenance ordinance that would require property owners to repair the facades of their damaged buildings.

"Broken windows replaced, boarded up windows replaced and buildings painted cleared," explained Reich.

Some property owners are behind the proposed change, like Laurie Crouse of Top Hats Special Teas. "It needs to look better down here so that we can get more businesses down here, as well something definitely needs to be done."

But others are skeptical about funding. Willie Thompson owns Thompson's Barber Shop. He's not sure how people will find the funding.

"All the businesses right now, all the merchants are not financially where they want to be - where they're not able to financially keep the buildings up, the facade up," he said.

According to Reich, incentives like facade grants and low interest loans would help pay for repairs.

Florence City Councilman Ed Robinson isn't sure about those incentives or if most property owners would qualify. "There are a lot of unanswered questions, in my opinion. Not that I'm against the growth and development of downtown, it's just that it needs to be more clear," he said.

Reich hopes to clear up any confusion when council meets February 13th.