DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — Downtown Darlington could look very different in a couple of years thanks to the latest in a series of projects to improve the area.

Lisa Bailey, Darlington’s director of planning and economic development, said a federal grant worth just under $1 million will be used to improve the city’s downtown pedestrian areas. Local business owners said they hope the change will bring in more customers.

Kenneth Cain, who owns three downtown businesses including The Blue clothing store, said his store sees more cars than pedestrians pass by. He said his biggest issue with the location is parking.

“Most of the time people have to park in the back and walk around,” Cain said.

He said he hopes the downtown streetscaping project will make it easier for customers to get around the area and into his businesses.

“If people are just hanging out, they might wander around and see what else is downtown,” Bailey said.

She said the project will put more lighting, seating, parking and sidewalks downtown. It will also convert Hewitt Alley into a public gathering area that will connect the square to the new courthouse.

“Seating for coming downtown to eat, maybe having a music event or something here,” Bailey said. “Benches, trashcans, bicycle racks. We are trying to make it more walkable, friendly and welcoming.”

Also included in the project are new security cameras. Bailey hopes it will attract more residents to the city and help fill vacant buildings.

“People want to live somewhere that they can walk down the street to a restaurant or shop,” Bailey said. “People like to be sort of close to stuff.”

Several business owners expressed excitement for the project, including Rita Buck of Merle Normal Cosmetics of Darlington, which is located next to Hewitt Alley.

“We hope that it will boost revenue to our town,” Buck said. “Just making it better for the downtown merchants of Darlington.”

“I want to go over there and chill out too,” Cain said. “That’s a great thing, someplace to go.”

The funding comes from a $750,000 community development block grant and a $75,000 match from Darlington County. Bailey said the project should be finished in about two years, around the same time as the new courthouse construction and county museum expansion are completed.