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Florence-Darlington Tech drops out of the hospitality business, transfers Inn ownership

August 26, 2018
A sign hangs on the front door of The Inn at the Crossroads in Lake City announcing that the business is closed.

LAKE CITY, S.C. – Plans for a culinary and hospitality program are no longer on the table for Florence-Darlington Technical College. And because of that, the Florence-Darlington Technical College Educational Foundation is transferring The Inn at the Crossroads property in Lake City to the Greater Lake City Community Development Office.

Lauren Dorton, interim executive director of institutional advancement at Florence-Darlington Technical College, said The Inn at the Crossroads property was given to the educational foundation as a gift roughly two years ago. The 58-room hotel features a fitness center, banquet and meeting space, restaurant, bar and catering service, according to its website.

“The background of that was, at the time of that gift, Florence-Darlington Tech was looking into doing a culinary and hospitality program, and that is a program that the school is no longer looking at to offer in the future,” Dorton said. “And because of that, there is no real reason for us to maintain the inn, because it was originally in the design of the gift to be used as kind of a learning lab situation for our students in that culinary hospitality program.”

The Morning News reported in January 2017 that a partnership between Florence-Darlington Technical College and the Darla Moore Foundation would bring a new culinary arts and hospitality program to downtown Lake City. In May 2016, the Darla Moore Foundation announced a $5 million gift as a catalyst to launch the new programs for the school.

Last summer, then-Florence-Darlington Technical College President Ben Dillard told the Morning News of the school’s plans for a new campus in downtown Lake City that would feature a 50,000-plus-square-foot facility. The campus would include a college, the hotel, plus a kitchen and restaurant.

Dillard said the school in Lake City would be designed to handle its entire curriculum, including the introduction of a quick jobs program.

Steve Gant, executive director of the Greater Lake City Community Development Office, said last summer that funding for the $10 million to $12 million project and management of construction would flow through that office.

Florence-Darlington Technical College Interim President Ed Bethea told the Morning News on Friday that the new site being built along West Main Street is no longer solely for the technical college. He said that changed when Dillard left the school in March. And culinary arts no longer will be offered, because “it’s certainly just not going to be economically viable to offer it there,” Bethea said.

Florence-Darlington Technical College is expected to have some space in the new site, in addition to other educational services, Bethea said.

“I think Francis Marion will have some presence there, too, but I don’t know what it is,” Bethea said.

The site is still under construction. Florence-Darlington Technical College already has a campus in Lake City on West Cole Road. The campus will continue to operate as normal until the site on West Main Street opens.

As for The Inn at the Crossroads, Dorton said the transfer to the Greater Lake City Community Development Office has not been completed, but paperwork is being finalized. The hotel has been closed as of Monday for renovations.

“The success is important,” said Seth Kines, the executive director of Visit Lake City SC. “Due to these large conferences, trade shows, festivals, other things we’ve booked, we need to expand the hotel.”

Kines said the community development office plans to give the building a facelift and expand.

“The rooms are getting a total facelift, new carpets, new floors,” Kines said. “There’ll be some new furniture, new paint. We’re redoing the public area. So the lobby will have a refresh.”

Other renovations include moving the bar back to where the current meeting room is in order to expand the restaurant and give the bar a larger area, Kines said. The parking lot and meeting space will also be expanded.

“While the hotel is closed for this renovation and expansion, the restaurant is going to move to what used to be Table 118, so 118 (West) Main Street and operate out of there,” Kines said. “And they’ll be serving lunch and dinner. And their plan is to open Tuesday, Sept. 4.”

The temporary closure will not put any employees out of work, Kines said, but some roles and responsibilities will shift.

“When the hotel reopens, we want to have a large grand opening celebrating the new and improved Inn at the Crossroads,” Kines said. “We look forward to continuing to welcome our corporate clients, transient guests, state and regional conferences and continuing to serve the greater Lake City area.”

Kines said he expects The Inn at the Crossroads to reopen by spring.

Bethea said he thinks the new educational site won’t open until the summer of 2019, roughly.

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