Rock Hill City Council discusses downtown revival plans

adouglas@heraldonline.comApril 11, 2013 

Acting on Rock Hill’s 10-year-old plan to rebrand and rebuild its downtown is like renovating a house “in a big way,” designer Richard Petersheim told city leaders on Thursday.

Rock Hill City Council members spent an hour and half on Thursday afternoon hearing updates from developers and designers involved in several projects aimed at revitalizing the downtown area.

Petersheim works for Land Design – a Charlotte-based firm in charge of plans for a $5 million park called “Old Town East Park.”

The 1.6 acre park could be the “living room” of Rock Hill’s downtown, he said.

Developer Jason Tuttle of Nova Capital Partners updated the council on his plan to build an apartment building on East Main Street.

The apartments will replace the former Woolworth building which will be torn down over the next few months. The development could be the “lynchpin” for more downtown housing, said Mayor Doug Echols.

Tuttle’s company recently was pre-approved for a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to start the nearly $6 million apartment building.

Five projects in downtown Rock Hill were discussed Thursday:

Apartments at 139 E. Main St.

Tuttle, the developer, had plans to build condos but now plans to bring a 46-unit apartment complex to the site of the former Woolworth store. The 12-month construction period is expected to start by the second quarter of 2014.

The first floor is reserved for retail space, and Winthrop University has said it plans to rent some of the space as a satellite office for its Small Business Development Center. Renters will be able to choose from one- or two-bedroom units.

Tuttle hopes the development will attract young professionals who want to live downtown, he said Thursday. Many young people just use their home as a place to crash, he said, and don’t want more than the 650 to 1,200 square feet the apartments will provide.

Rental rates will be similar to the cost of living at Legacy apartments at Manchester Village on Dave Lyle Boulevard, Tuttle said.

The Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. owns the Woolworth building. Its investment in the project is $395,000, including the value of the building ($200,000).

Plans call for a walkway beside the apartments to connect East Main Street to the city-owned parking lot on White Street.

The city is spending $1 million on parking lot improvements and the walkway.

Oakland Avenue improvements

The state Department of Transportation plans to begin roadwork by the fall of 2013. Crews will install new curbing and gutters, set up decorative lighting on the sidewalk and replace some portions of the sidewalk.

Oakland Avenue in the downtown area will go from four lanes to two to create room for on-street parking.

The city of Rock Hill and S.C. DOT are sharing the cost of the project which is expected to be more than $300,000.

The work will include stormwater drainage improvements, particularly near Black Street and Oakland Avenue.

City staff members are reviewing S.C. DOT’s plans and may decide to do some work in-house to reduce the cost.

Oakland Avenue will not close during the roadwork, which could last up to 60 days.

Old Town Market Hall

Construction on the Caldwell Street building is finished with one tenant, Millstone Pizza, open for business.

The Old Town Farmer’s Market will hold its first event in the new space on May 9.

Property owners have invested about $500,000 in renovating two buildings as part of the Old Town Market Hall project. The city has invested about $775,000.

Original plans called for improvements to the parking area behind the market hall, including new sidewalks and landscaping. The city now plans to extend the sidewalk from the market hall to East White Street and include a small plaza.

A new sign will go up on East White Street pointing people to the market hall.

An LED light sign with electronic messages will be installed.

Old Town East Park

The city will spend $5 million to turn a municipal parking lot at East Main Street and Elizabeth Lane into a park to coincide with a new 50,000-square-foot Comporium office building – the first new office space built downtown the past 35 years.

Plans call for $1.3 million fountain, paid for by Comporium.

The park will have public art designed by local students, open recreational space and an informal performance area with a canopy.

Petersheim, the park designer, said the fountain will be a “signature moment of photographs for time to come.”

As part of the park design, one block of Saluda Street will be repaved and transformed into a plaza with about 40 on-street parking spots.

Old Town East offices, parking

The Warren Norman Company is constructing the four-story office building which currently has one signed tenant, Morton and Gettys Law Firm.

Other prospective tenants are showing interest, Warren Norman told the council on Thursday.

By the time they break ground next month, he said, the building could have 80 percent of its office space claimed.

Comporium is giving the city land beside its new development to build a parking deck.

The city plans to spend $3 million on the parking garage and reserve half of the 210 spaces for Comporium.

The new office building and park, Norman said, could attract a hotel like Marriott to the downtown area.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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