Comporium to pay for downtown park’s water fountain

dworthington@heraldonline.comJanuary 26, 2013 

Comporium will donate $1.3 million to Rock Hill for construction of a water fountain, one of the signature pieces of the Downtown East development project.

The donation is part of a project agreement between the city and Comporium. The City Council will consider the agreement at its 6 p.m. meeting Monday.

Last week, Comporium, the city and developer Warren Norman Co., announced they are moving forward with plans to build a four-story office building and the downtown park, the first phase of the Downtown East project. Downtown East is a public-private partnership to redevelop the area around Elizabeth Lane between East Main Street and East Black Street.

Supporters of the project hope the park and its fountain will become a destination, drawing people to downtown. The design of the fountain has not been finalized, City Manager David Vehaun said.

Additional phases include a possible 100-bed hotel, a retail-residential building and a performing arts center. The city and Comporium own the land for most of the projects. So far, Comporium has only committed to the office building.

Market conditions will determine future Downtown East investment, Comporium officials said.

The project agreement before council outlines the responsibilities and commitments of each party.

As proposed:

• Comporium is committing to build a 48,000-square-foot office at the corner of East Main Street and Elizabeth Lane. Construction would start when the building is 50 percent leased, or during the second quarter of 2013. Construction would take no more than 24 months.

• The city will reimburse Comporium for all impact fees and building permits fees for the office building.

• Comporium will donate to the city land for a 210-space parking deck behind the proposed office building. One hundred of the spaces will be leased to the building’s owner.

• The city will issue $3 million in bonds to pay for the parking deck. The bonds will be paid off with property taxes from the office building and other Downtown East projects. If the property tax revenue does not meet bond expenses, Comporium will make up the difference, up to $81,000 per year from 2017 through 2038.

• The city will invest $5 million in the park with construction to start three months after construction of the office building starts. The park will be completed no later than six months following occupancy of the office building.

• The city and Comporium will bury overhead utility lines along Black Street between Hampton Street and Elizabeth Lane. Other utility lines in the vicinity of the project may also be buried.

The proposed agreement also calls for Comporium to commit up to $1 million in infrastructure tax credits for the next thee years to improve infrastructure at the Knowledge Park.

A key piece of the Knowledge Park is the redevelopment of the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing site, commonly called the Bleachery. The Knowledge Park is an economic development strategy to bring high-tech jobs to the downtown. It calls for linking downtown and Winthrop University through redevelopment of the Bleachery site.

The state infrastructure tax credit programs allows companies to contribute money to public projects such as water and sewer lines and get a tax credit. The projects cannot exclusively benefit the taxpayer.

Monday’s agenda had two items related to the development agreement. One is issuing up to $12 million in tax increment bonds for the downtown projects. The other is an agreement between the city and Comporium on the infrastructure tax credits.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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