Years back, a decade or more, the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. invited Tony Pressley to address members during their annual retreat.
Pressley, a key player in transforming Charlottes South End from a conglomeration of warehouses and rundown industrial properties into a neighborhood of design-oriented firms, glitzy shops and high-end eateries, had bad news and good news.
The developer had taken upon himself to tour the so-called Textile Corridor, between downtown and Winthrop University. The tract, formerly dominated by the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co., had been the focus of the citys development hopes for years.
After assessing the vacant industrial properties, Pressley cautioned retreat attendees not to get their hopes up. They were looking at 25 years of work. I know, he said, Weve been at it for 25 years in Charlotte, and were nowhere near done.
Pressley also offered a ray of hope: Youve got something Id give my eye teeth for a major university.
Halfway through the quarter-century Pressley predicted, Rock Hill yet again finds itself dreaming of success with the Textile Corridor.
Only now, its called Knowledge Park. Nor is it confined to the 23 acres that once was home to the Bleachery. Depending on whos talking, Knowledge Park would seem to extend from the Winthrop campus through the Textile Corridor as far as to whats recently been dubbed Downtown East. Along the way, it seems to have swallowed Old Town.
Dont bother typing those names into your GPS.
An obvious shortcoming to these various designations is that none evokes a place, person or event that people associate with Rock Hill or the enterprises that made this city what is it today.
Take Knowledge Park, for instance. Granted, the city hopes to lure companies that will employ well-paid people to do a lot of neat things on computers, but how does the name distinguish OUR knowledge park from the hundreds of others being touted in communities across the country?
Why not call it the Bleachery?
That name would have two obvious advantages: 1. People who know about Rock Hill immediately could identify the area in question; and 2. Everyone else would ask, What the heck is a Bleachery?
Precisely. The question would give downtown boosters an opening to tell how a brash, blue-collar town on the verge of the Great Depression and reeling from the loss of its signature manufacturer, the Anderson Motor Co., enticed a New York City textile company here by promising to bring the river to the site. And how that factory at its peak provided nearly 5,000 jobs, and that it was a mainstay of this community for most of a century.
Nomenclature aside, the outlook for Rock Hills central core is a lot rosier today than it was when Tony Pressley visited. Most of the decrepit factories have been removed or renovated, the most prominent being the structure now known as the Cotton Factory, which represents more than $13 million in private investment.
Elsewhere downtown, Comporium is building Fountain Park Place, the first new office building constructed downtown in years, and Family Trust Credit Union is planning a $7 million headquarters across the street from the Bleachery.
A few days ago, the city chose a partnership of two firms from Maryland and Colorado to serve as the master developer for Knowledge Park.
Sora-Phelps Rock Hill, LLC, (thats a name for you) reportedly met success with a similar town/gown project in Glassboro, N.J., so hopes are high it can help Rock Hill realize its longstanding dream of linking Winthrop and downtown via a series of as-yet-undetermined but nonetheless marvelous projects.
All this would amount to pipe-dreaming were it not for the more than $60 million in planned public infrastructure improvements.
Some of that money will come from York Countys Pennies for Progress program and some from Uncle Sugar in the form of grants. Most will come indirectly from local taxpayers, either businesses or utility customers.
Thats another reason to be picky about names.
Its fine to pick names that presage the city Rock Hill hopes to become, but it would be a shame to forget how we got there.
Email former Herald Editor Terry Plumb at firstname.lastname@example.org.