What some people have called the “ugliest parking lot in Rock Hill” will be transformed over the next year into a $4.8 million park.
Rock Hill officials this week signed off on spending the money to develop the 1.6-acre “Fountain Park,” which will replace a city parking lot at Main Street and Elizabeth Lane, in downtown.
City Council members on Monday approved awarding the park contract to Rock Hill builder Leitner Construction Co.
Leitner and Blythe Development Co. of Charlotte competed for the contract. Both original bids came in over the city’s desired budget for the new park.
But because Leitner’s original bid was about $315,000 lower than Blythe’s, city officials tweaked some details on the park plan to drive down the cost. They then finalized plans with Leitner.
The $4.8-million budget will cover the cost of building the park and improving some parts of nearby streets. Park plans call for large amounts of open recreational space, an informal performance area with a canopy and public art designed by local students.
One block of Saluda Street will be repaved and changed into a plaza with about 60 on-street parking spots. Other on-street parking places will be available around the park.
The park’s construction coincides with a new office building and a $3 million parking garage being built on downtown Rock Hill’s east end. Leitner is also building the office building and the garage.
Comporium Communications is paying for the four-story office building and a $1.3 million fountain for the public park. The city will foot the bill for the park and the parking garage, which will connect to Comporium’s building.
The company is giving the city land next to its office site to build the 210-space parking garage. Officials have dubbed the project area as “Downtown East.”
Financing the projects
Earlier this year, City Council members approved borrowing about $9.2 million for various downtown improvements.
The council also approved a development deal with Comporium.
The loans for the downtown projects are to be paid back through property tax sourced from Comporium’s building and any new business that opens in the immediate area.
The financing option is best because it means the city can pursue new development without affecting all Rock Hill taxpayers, City Manager David Vehaun said on Monday.
Starting the development now will also work in Rock Hill’s favor, he said, as construction costs may begin to rise as the economy shows signs of recovery.
And trading an old parking lot for a new park should spur commercial growth around downtown and attract visitors, city officials have said.
Expansion work on Rock Hill’s Law Center is still underway on Black Street. Work on that site is expected to finish by summer 2014.
With multiple projects in the works, downtown may look like a “construction site” for some time, said Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols on Monday.
But, he said, “the end result will be worth it.”
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068