Rock Hill to revamp Hagins-Fewell master plan

adouglas@heraldonline.comJuly 19, 2013 

Progress in the Hagins-Fewell neighborhood was visible on Thursday as Rock Hill utility workers installed a new stormwater drain on Hagins Street, and city leaders say more improvements are on the way.

The city is revamping its “master plan” for the Hagins-Fewell area – a road map for how to solve some of the downtown neighborhood’s problems and perhaps attract private investment.

A firm will be hired soon to draft the plan, which is an update to a master plan created in 2004.

The Hagins-Fewell neighborhood suffered a blow in 1996 when the Arcade Mill – a 100-year-old remnant of Rock Hill’s rich textile history – burned, leaving an eyesore in the middle of a residential area of about 1,000 people.

Ten years after the fire – at the request of neighborhood leaders – the city took ownership of the burned mill and tore it down. The land is now a green space with bike and walking trails nearby.

Hagins-Fewell residents lag behind the rest of the city in terms of household income and homeownership rates: The average family earns about $14,000 less per year than the citywide average.

More than half of the upcoming improvements will be around West Main Street and West Black Street, said Jennifer Wilford, Rock Hill’s grant coordinator.

The master plan is a “big picture look” at how the city can improve the neighborhood, she said.

One benefit of having a plan is the prospect of attracting commercial development – something many Hagins-Fewell residents feel is needed, Wilford said.

A small grocery store within walking distance of the neighborhood has been on many residents’ wishlist for a long time, she said.

The written plan will confirm the area’s demographics and demonstrate need, which could induce private investment, Wilford said, and help the city market the neighborhood if it decides to take a proactive approach to attracting developers.

Over the next two weeks, city officials will interview consultants interested in updating the neighborhood’s master plan.

Improvements already in place in the area have given streets such as Hagins Street, Finley Road and Blackwell Street “a face-lift,” said Rock Hill City Councilman Osbey Roddey.

The city’s effort to support affordable housing, demolish dilapidated homes and clean up the mill site, he said, have instilled pride in the residents.

He hopes he and others will be able to revitalize the former Friendship College campus, now owned by the Baptist Convention of York and Chester counties.

New construction on the former college’s property, he said, would benefit the Hagins-Fewell neighborhood, the city and the county.

This week’s stormwater system improvements should help the city clear one of its biggest goals in the neighborhood – fixing some flooding and standing water problems in the area, Wilford said.

As city officials and some in Rock Hill’s business community push forward with plans to turn the city’s old textile area near downtown into a job hub called “Knowledge Park,” continued efforts to revitalize Hagins-Fewell are important, she said.

New development poised to attract active adults ages 55 and older, “new urbanites” and high-tech career seekers won’t work, she said, if Knowledge Park is positioned just blocks from a neighborhood that’s crime-ridden and lacks adequate infrastructure.

The fact that Rock Hill leaders have recognized “early on” that work is needed in Hagins-Fewell as other downtown projects unfold, Wilford said, is a good sign for the future of the neighborhood.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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