By: Andrew Boardwine
FLORENCE, S.C. — After more than two years of anticipation, Carolina Bank officially opened the doors of its new headquarters Monday in an estimated $4.5 million investment and expansion in downtown Florence.
The 19,200-square foot building will host the bank’s 15th branch location, as well as Carolina Bank’s headquarters, operations and administrative offices.
Brian Falcone, senior credit officer for Carolina Bank, said that the company has helped finance projects downtown, including Hotel Florence, The Waters Building and part of Kress Corner.
“We feel like we’ve been involved in downtown, but we’re very excited to be opening the new branch in downtown and to move our operations to Florence,” Falcone said.
Falcone said Carolina Bank’s lending volume in Florence has increased from around 20 percent to 75 percent over the years. That was a major factor in the company’s decision to move to downtown Florence, according to Falcone.
“We felt like there was an opportunity for us to grown downtown, and we looked at several properties,” Falcone said. “This building is just a great location, and we really loved the history behind it.”
Falcone said the bank moved approximately 30 jobs to the downtown location and created roughly six jobs with the new branch.
“This move will . llow us to provide more focused service to our customers and potential customers in a growing market, ” Rick Beasley, the president of Carolina Bank, said in a news release. “ The development downtown is exciting, and we are thrilled to be a part of it. However, we remain committed to our customers in Darlington and our other branch locations. We will continue to serve our communities with the exceptional customer and banking services they have come to expect from us.”
Last year, the bank announced that it would take over the former Art Trail Gallery at 185 W. Evans St. for its new company headquarters. The original plan was for construction to be completed and for the bank to move into the new building in December of 2017.
“It was well worth the wait,” Falcone said. “We started construction June 2017 but ran into different issues, so what was supposed to be a 12-month project turned into about a 17- to 18-month project.”
Falcone said that Carolina Bank was interested in the property because of its historical layout.
“The building was originally three stories, but when it was the furniture store and the Art Trail gallery, it was two stories,” Falcone said. “So, we looked at old plans when it was three stories and thought it was a really neat-looking building. It was the turn of the century when Florence was just getting going, and we really wanted to make the building look as much like that as we possibly could.”
The first floor of the bank includes the new branch operations and wealth management services. The second floor is dedicated to operations, such as loan, computer and deposit operations. The third floor houses several administrative offices for Carolina Bank’s headquarters.
Carolina Bank opened its first office in 1936 in Lamar.