Riverwalk could gain YMCA, microbrewery

adouglas@heraldonline.comDecember 19, 2013 

Rock Hill’s Riverwalk soon could be home to both a new branch of the YMCA and York County’s first microbrewery.

Riverwalk developer Dave Williams told The Herald this week that a business owner has bought land in the development near Interstate 77 and Cherry Road.

Plans also are coming together for a new two-story building at Riverwalk that would house the Upper Palmetto YMCA, with about 14,000 square feet of leased space for weight-lifting machines, stationary bikes, exercise rooms and baby-sitting.

Williams did not disclose the name of the owners of the prospective brewing company, but said his company, the Assured Group, could close on selling the land by early next year.

A Charlotte-based architectural firm confirmed it is working on designs for the microbrewery. Representatives from Miller Architecture would not disclose the name of their client. But the firm’s website reports the company is working on a restaurant and brewery building for Legal Remedies Brewing at Riverwalk. The owners of Legal Remedies could not be reached Thursday.

Williams said adding the planned microbrewery to the residential and recreational offerings at Riverwalk is exciting, “We have always thought that a microbrewery would be a great addition to Riverwalk and serve as a catalyst for additional retail amenities in the development,” he said.

Development’s active lifestyle attracted YMCA

Riverwalk, a nearly 1,000-acre mixed-use development, has benefited greatly from public investments approved by Rock Hill city officials. When development started there in late 2009, Rock Hill agreed to contribute nearly $50 million to build recreational facilities, streets and utilities. Combined with private spending, officials estimate the Riverwalk development will eventually represent a $600-million investment.

About 150 apartments are under construction in the residential area of Riverwalk, and the second round of single-family homes are ready for purchase.

One of the city’s newest recreational facilities, the Giordana Velodrome, opened in Riverwalk in early 2012 and has hosted regional and national cycling competitions.

The microbrewery is expected to be built on the velodrome’s south side and overlook the cycling arena. The YMCA building will also be located near the velodrome.

The microbrewery owner is looking to buy about 3 acres in Riverwalk, Williams said.

Also at Riverwalk, the city of Rock Hill is paying for construction of a BMX Supercross track that officials say will attract international competitors and visitors. City leaders hope the BMX track will host its first event in October 2014.

Moe Bell, executive director of the YMCA, said the city’s cycling venues and the Riverwalk neighborhood sparked the YMCA’s interest in the area. He said the YMCA has been discussing a Riverwalk branch for two years.

Residents of Riverwalk “are looking for an active lifestyle and that’s us,” Bell said. An array of high-tech equipment will serve not only regular members but the athletes competing at events at the velodrome and BMX track, he said.

Among the planned “high-tech” equipment are machines to measure an athlete’s VO2 max, or maximum oxygen uptake. VO2 is one factor that can determine an athlete’s performance capacity and aerobic endurance.

The YMCA anticipates opening at Riverwalk in fall 2014.

The facility would employ about 50 mostly part-time workers. Bell expects the Riverwalk YMCA would have an operating budget of about $1 million.

Economic gains of craft beer

Williams said he hopes a microbrewery will spur more growth.

“Microbreweries have had a very positive impact in Charlotte’s South End and NoDa neighborhoods and we are optimistic that the same will hold true for Riverwalk and Rock Hill,” he said.

The Riverwalk development is the ideal location for food and beverage businesses, he said, because of its easy access from I-77 and its proximity to both Rock Hill’s downtown and Fort Mill. A market study done recently by a Greenville firm and presented to Rock Hill officials showed that Riverwalk is York County’s most significant development.

Bordering the Catawba River, the development area has space for hundreds of homes, up to 500 apartment-style units and more than 300 townhomes, according to the study by Arnett Muldrow and Associates.

For a brewpub to be successful, there needs to be a population of 150,000 people in a 15-mile radius, according to the study. From Rock Hill’s downtown, according to the study, there are about 340,000 people living in a 15-mile radius.

A microbrewery or brewpub at Riverwalk could benefit the local economy, according to recent statistics compiled by the national Brewer’s Association. Small, independent beer brewers – often called craft brewers – contributed nearly $34 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012.

The five states with the largest economic impact from craft brewing were California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Last year, South Carolina’s craft brew industry had an economic impact of about $254 million – a small impact compared to California’s $4.7 billion and Colorado’s $1.6 billion.

In South Carolina, York County’s closest microbrewery is in Lancaster: Benford Brewing, which bottles and sells beer but does not have a brewpub on site.

York County residents can find multiple options for craft beer and microbrewery tours in and around Charlotte. At least seven microbreweries are in Charlotte and a dozen more in Hickory, Mount Airy, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

South Carolina has nearly two dozen brew pubs or microbreweries –mainly concentrated near the coastal cities of Charleston or Myrtle Beach and in the Upstate in Spartanburg and Greenville.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068 Don Worthington contributed.

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