Bleachery-site plan to create jobs in Rock Hill gains ground

adouglas@heraldonline.comMarch 14, 2013 

— Rock Hill is gaining traction with its plan to create jobs and revamp the city’s textile corridor, leaders said Thursday.

An April 8 deadline is approaching for private developers to send in ideas for contributing to Rock Hill’s “Knowledge Park” plan.

The city and its nonprofit economic development arm are marketing 18 projects in the 100 acres between downtown Rock Hill and Winthrop University.

On Thursday, the City Council heard an update from economic development leaders and Tom Walsh, a representative from Atlanta-based design and architectural firm Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates.

Walsh presented three concepts for turning the old Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. textile site, commonly called the Bleachery, into a mixed-use development that could feature office space, retail and residential buildings.

The design firm’s concepts could be a starting point for developers who respond to Rock Hill’s project proposals.

All of Walsh’s concepts include space for a streetcar running through the Bleachery site, potentially shuttling people between Winthrop and downtown.

If private investors want a streetcar system, that “will drive the streetcar,” City Manager David Vehaun said.

One site plan includes a water feature along Stewart Avenue, close to University Place Apartments, an off-campus apartment building serving some Winthrop students.

Parking at the site, Walsh said, will be important. His firm’s design plans suggest the area will need up to 2,000 parking spaces.

Winthrop-related proposals are a big part of the city’s plan for Knowledge Park, city officials say.

The university and the city recently finished a feasibility study for building a 120-unit “active adult” community that would serve people 55 and older.

Its residents would be able to take part in activities on campus or those sponsored by Winthrop. One potential site is not far from the Bleachery – along Constitution Boulevard, where Winthrop already owns land.

Winthrop also has plans to relocate its small business center downtown to East Main Street, on the site of the old Woolworth building. Developers plan to demolish that store and build apartments with space for Winthrop to use on the first level.

On Monday, city leaders also reviewed the millions of dollars poured into roads, utility systems and sidewalks over the past several years, all of which would support the development of the Knowledge Park and other downtown developments:

• More than $2.5 million spent on new sewer lines in the Arcade Mill and Hagins-Fewell neighborhoods.

• Nearly $1 million being spent along West White Street to bury utility lines and widen the road in some places.

• Rock Hill plans to spend $2.5 million on a new electrical substation on Stewart Avenue to serve the downtown area.

A new substation is crucial, city leaders say, because they want to attract high-tech jobs to Knowledge Park and assure business owners that the power supply is reliable. The substation also would be a backup system for the rest of the city.

• Another $2.5 million will be spent to replace a city water tank on Laurel Street.

By fall of 2013, the City Council will approve which developers or developer will lead the Knowledge Park effort.

Anna Douglas •  03-329-4068

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