Would new water tank be icon for Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park?

dworthington@heraldonline.comAugust 26, 2013 

The peach harvest in Cherokee County is not what it once was. The county doesn’t rank among the state’s top-five peach producing counties. Saluda, Edgefield, Chesterfield, Spartanburg and York counties lead the state in peach production, according to state agriculture statistics.

Nonetheless, say peaches and South Carolina, and the likely response will be “Gaffney,” which is in Cherokee County. The answer is not for the fruit, but the 135-foot tall “Peachoid” water tower. The 1-million-gallon water tank has been painted to resemble a giant peach since 1981.

“We are riding the popularity of the peach,” said Jim Cook, Cherokee County’s director of economic development. Pictures of the Peachoid tank appear in economic development and tourism marketing.

Cook said the tank’s economic development benefit is that it “puts us on the map. Anyone that has been on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta has seen the Peachoid.”

The identification lets site selectors know immediately where Gaffney is, he said.

It also gets a lot of visitors, including actor Kevin Spacey, who posted a picture of himself and his dog Boston, and a bottle of champagne, in front of the “Peachoid.”

“She’s drunk with pride,” tweeted Spacey. The photo came after he was nominated for an Emmy for the Netflix series “House of Cards.” Spacey plays a South Carolina politician in the series, which is filmed in Baltimore.

Rock Hill officials are wondering whether they can achieve similar success for their latest economic development strategy, Knowledge Park.

They hope to turn the former Rock Hill Finishing and Printing plant site into a technology park and a link between Winthrop University and downtown Rock Hill.

Business leaders, the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. and city leaders are examining proposals from those who want to be the project’s master developer. City Council may make a decision on a master developer soon.

At the same time there also has been some talk about how to brand and identify Knowledge Park.

Just like Gaffney, the answer might be a water tower.

A 500,000-gallon water tank constructed in the 1940s towers over the trees at West Main and Laurel streets. The tank has the words “Rock Hill,” a fading dogwood symbol and a multitude of communications towers poking skyward.

As part of the redevelopment of the area for Knowledge Park, the tank is coming down, to be replaced with a 750,000-gallon version.

As city officials mull the replacement, they also are considering whether there is anything that could be done to make the new tank an icon for the development.

A water tank might not seem high tech, but the challenges this tank poses are worthy of the solutions city leaders hope come from businesses in Knowledge Park.

Foremost, the height of the tank can’t change. The tank, and others throughout the city, must be at the same height to maintain pressure in the water system – 823 feet above sea level.

The Laurel Street tank is 148 feet tall.

“You can’t make it shorter,” said City Manager David Vehaun.

Second, most of the water tanks in the United States come from a standard design. Rock Hill’s adopted style for tanks is a bulb made of composite materials resting on a pedestal. The capacity of these tanks is 1 million gallons.

Vehaun said it may be possible to mimic the column architecture that is prevalent at Winthrop in the tank’s design. The tank has a steel framework and nine supporting columns. If that’s not feasible, the city may opt for a distinctive paint job or advertising wrap similar to what’s on buses.

If painting is not an option, then maybe something creative could be done in lighting the tank, Vehaun said. That’s a popular option in many cities, particularly around holidays.

“It could be at the end of the day, it’s beyond our reach and we would stay with tradition,” Vehaun said.

Thinking outside the box may not be as expensive as thought. If a master developer is willing to sink millions of his firm’s dollars into a project, the cost of painting a water tank to tell the world where you are is minuscule.

The Charlotte Knights were willing to take that risk when they contributed to repainting the 750,000-gallon water tank near the Fort Mill stadium – and visible from Interstate 77 – to resemble a baseball

The baseball tank was named one of the 12 best in 2012 by Tnemec, which holds an annual competition to pick the best tanks in the United States.

The Knights are leaving for Charlotte, but the baseball-themed paint job is likely to last for another 15 to 20 years, said David Hughes, supervisor of the water and sewer department for York County. Then again, if a developer tears down Knights Stadium and builds anew, and wants to pay for a new paint job, the county would be receptive, Hughes said.

Winners in the national tank contest have featured sea turtles and crayfish, and tanks made to look like apples, beach balls, forests, lakes and skylines. And, of course, many just have their names in big letters.

What works best here?

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

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