Business owners see potential in lively downtown Rock Hill core

dworthington@heraldonline.comFebruary 11, 2013 

— Last Friday Patti Petersen and Justin Smith were kindred souls on different paths.

For Petersen it was a bittersweet day; she was closing Periwinkle Cafe & Bakery. Between selling coffee and pastries there were hugs from loyal customers. Nearby were boxes, waiting to be filled with all the things needed to operate the cafe.

A stone’s throw away in a second-floor suite overlooking Main Street were Smith, Jimmy Jurado and Mike Goodner. They were unloading boxes. Smith stood in his vacant office, marveling at the craftsmanship: the polished wood floor, the 18-foot ceiling, crown molding that looked at least a foot in width and the pressed-tin ceiling.

Smith was drawn to details. He has an architectural degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and is working on becoming a licensed architect.

He likes the idea of being downtown and being able to walk everywhere. He envisions a day in the not-too-distant future when he can open the windows and listen to one of downtown’s many street festivals.

Smith, Jurado and Goodner are the kind of people those pushing downtown development want to attract.

The are young members of the creative class. Juardo is 39 and Smith and Goodner, 32.

They could work anywhere, all they need is Wi-Fi access. But they have chosen to come downtown.

They share the vision of what downtown can become: offices, retail shops, restaurants and residents – a lively vital core of the city.

Most importantly, they are homegrown. Smith and Goodner are graduates of Northwestern High School and Clemson University. Jurado is from Colombia, the country not the city.

Jurado’s father sent him to Charlotte to remove him from the strife overcoming his home country. Jurado learned English at Central Piedmont Community College and then earned a business degree from Winthrop.

He is the director of business development for Premiere Design Solutions Inc., an engineering consulting firm. The firm has 15 employees at its two offices in Miami and Rock Hill. Jurado and Goodner are the Rock Hill office.

Smith is the owner of vin-yet designs. His partner is Myles Alexander, a licensed architect in Asheville, N.C. Smith has been working on residential projects with his work taking him to Charleston, Myrtle Beach and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Smith and Jurado recently had a taste of what’s possible in Rock Hill. They measured the buildings at the Bleachery for the city.

It was an adventure in urban archaeology. They opened doors that hadn’t been opened since mill employees walked off the job years ago.

They measured from basements to roofs, even to the tops of the boilers in the power plant. Among their finds was a plant manager’s diary from 1953 that detailed all the things the manager “designed on the fly” to keep the plant going, Smith said.

Smith became enamored with the old filter plant building, even picturing his office there in the future.

Their efforts were one of the first steps in the city’s campaign to market the Bleachery site as part of the Knowledge Park. It is an effort to attract high-paying, high-tech jobs to the former textile site. It is also part of a longstanding effort to link Winthrop University to downtown.

Smith and Jurado want to have a bigger part of those efforts.

“We’re young, we’re local, we want to grow. We want a chance,” Smith said. “There is so much opportunity with the Bleachery. I could work on that project until I die.” They hope being downtown will help them get that chance. “We are not dependent on foot traffic, but the more people who come downtown puts us in a position to get a chance,” Smith said.

They also envision a day when, if the works comes, they will need more people. Professional engineers and architects are well paid jobs, Jurado said. A certified engineer’s salary starts at about $50,000 to $60,000 with a high of $90,000, Jurado said.

As they settle into downtown, Smith is looking forward to the day when someone opens a new downtown coffee shop. He loves coffee.

Until then, however, he will have to find his coffee elsewhere. Until then, he, Jurado and Goodner can take comfort in “being close to the hustle and bustle of what Rock Hill is about to become,” Goodner said.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •  dworthington@heraldonline.com

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