Rock Hill approves giving $3 million for parking deck

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 29, 2013 

— Rock Hill’s City Council members gave their support on Monday night to build a second parking garage in the downtown area that will cost an estimated $3 million.

The garage – which will be slightly bigger than the city’s Black Street garage – is part of a Rock Hill development plan called Downtown East.

Comporium plans to start construction this year on a four-story office building near the garage. It will be the first new office space built in downtown Rock Hill over the past 35 years.

Councilman Kevin Sutton said he likes the development plan but is concerned about Comporium having exclusive rights to half of the 210 parking spaces in the proposed garage because it could hamper growth.

Businesses leased some spaces exclusively in the Black Street garage about 15 years ago, Sutton said.

“It always came back to bite us,” he said.

The option of not leasing half of the parking to serve Comporium’s 48,000-square foot building would be “a difficult thing to get around,” said Stephen Turner, Rock Hill’s economic development director.

Comporium is giving the city the land to build the garage. Lenders need to see, Turner said, that the office building has enough parking available to attract rent-paying tenants.

The City Council will soon be asked to sign off on a project agreement that promises the parking spaces to Comporium and reimburses the company any impact fees and building permit fees for the office building.

In the agreement, the city will pledge to build a $5 million park for the Downtown East plan. About 60 parking spaces will be included around the park, Turner said.

Councilwoman Kathy Pender echoed Sutton’s concern about leasing half the garage space if it will be needed by other future businesses.

Long-term parking spaces also need to be considered in the plans, said Councilwoman Sandra Oborokumo.

The city is waiting on results from a “parking demand” study, Turner said, which will give planners an idea of how much additional parking is needed to accommodate growth.

The council approved on first reading borrowing up to $12 million to pay for Downtown East projects.

The city may determine it only needs $9 million of the borrowed money to finish its share of the development, said Anne Harty, Rock Hill’s chief financial officer. The rest of the money may be used to insure the loan or to obtain a better interest rate.

The loans will be paid back over the next 25 to 30 years through property tax revenue from the downtown district. New businesses and construction will help pay back the loans, Harty said, not current downtown tenants or residents.

In addition to the office building, Comporium is committing $1.3 million to build a water fountain in the park. The fountain will help downtown Rock Hill become a “destination,” said Councilman Jim Reno.

Comporium also is investing $1 million over the next three years into the city’s plans for redevelopment and infrastructure improvements around the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. plant and the area between downtown and Winthrop University. The company is receiving a tax credit from the state in exchange for its investment.

Comporium’s investments, said Mayor Pro-Tem John Black, should create a “snowball effect” in downtown projects which have been “hit or miss for 20 plus years.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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