After nearly a year of planning, the downtown streetscape is undergoing a significant change.
While not immediately visible from Main Street, the demolition of the former Maxway and CitiTrends locations across from the Sumter Opera House is well underway, with large machinery in the process of knocking down the exterior walls.
Howie Owens, downtown development manager for the city, said the current target date for completion is in late December. This will come about four months after Sumter City Council authorized city administration officials to begin negotiating a final contract to begin demolition. Those efforts have been underway for about three weeks.
The demolition project first became public in December, when city manager Deron McCormick petitioned the Historic Preservation Design Review committee to tear down the century-old buildings to make room for future economic development. In fact, officials have said they hope the location will attract a downtown hotel large enough to host convention-based events.
Until then, the location will be used as a green space, with a modest rendering for the location recently being released by the city. Owens said the plans for the open space were scaled back from their initial, more elaborate plans.
“We really want development there, so we’re not going to put too much into it,” Owens said.
Purchased in 2012 by the city, the buildings in the first block of North Main Street were being used by both Maxway and CitiTrends up until their leases expired in February, and McCormick initially expressed hope that the project would be completed by this past summer. However, various delays slowed the project during the year.
And although demolition is now underway in earnest, the front façades to the buildings will remain in place until all other demolition aspects are completed.
A large portion of the buildings were removed during the past week, including significant demolition on Tuesday.
Leroy House, a truck driver for Carolina Wrecking who will eventually haul the remnants of the buildings away, spent most of his workday on Tuesday standing on a large rubble pile spraying down debris as two large crane arms would occasionally come within a few short feet of him as they knocked down the walls.
“Just trying to keep the dust down for the community,” House said of his seemingly dangerous job. House, however, said he felt safe in his position working with the other members of the demolition crew, who he said had been doing similar jobs for about 16 years. “I can trust them,” House said. “We’ve done this for a while, so we know how to communicate.”