Historic Exchange Street property to be restaurant
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
Redevelopment specialist Webstar Properties LLC has offered $100 to purchase a historic Darlington building located at 101-103 Exchange Street with the intent to renovate and restore the entire structure. Darlington City Council passed first reading on this proposal at its May 19 special meeting.
Victor Webster of WebStar Properties says he intends to open a pub/sandwich shop on the first floor, and perhaps convert the second floor into meeting space or another complementary business.
The renovation has an estimated cost ceiling of $300,000, and Webster says that once the sale is closed, he plans a 180-day turnaround. Communications with the City of Darlington indicate renovations would be complete within 18 months.
“It’s a floor to ceiling revovation,” says Webster.
The City of Darlington owns the building, which has been vacant for about 15 years. It is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, dating to around 1859.
It was home to two newspapers, a Secessionist publication called The Southerner, and also The Darlington News. Other businesses, such as an insurance office, a barbershop, and various offices, were also located there.
J.W. Hammond purchased the building around 1870, and occupied it until 1905. An 1881 deed refers to it as Hammond’s Corner, a name the Webster might use for the pub/sandwich shop.
Webster said that although the property is in frightful shape at present, his experience exploring dilapidated buildings in downtown Florence (in the vanguard of that city’s downtown revitalization) prepared him for the challenge.
“I have crawled through some buildings that would make that place look like a Hilton. I wasn’t sure if I would fall thorugh the floor, or if some creature was going to attack me,” says Webster, noting that even through the grime and age, the building’s potential captured his imagination.
He says the Exchange Street property, with its exterior iron staircase and wooden balcony, should eventually resemble something one might find in downtown New Orleans. Webster plans to use pedi-cabs to transport diners to and from their homes (within city limits), providing a safe and fun way to travel after having a couple of beers or a glass of wine.
Webster says he is excited to find and develop other Darlington business ideas, with an eye toward investments that would promote further economic growth and enrich racial diversity in the business community. He is currently looking to invest in several other downtown properties, and is working with city planning director and DDRA director Lisa Chalian-Rock to investigate opportunities.
“It’s fantastic to have somebody interested in historic renovations and investing in Darlington, someone who sees what we see as the future for Darlington,” says Chalian-Rock.