Rock Hill business leaders want to adjust tax district

dworthington@heraldonline.comApril 9, 2014 

Knowledge Park master plan rendering

Rock Hill officials want to expand the boundaries of a special tax district and extend the deadline for issuing debt.

The action is part of the Knowledge Park economic development strategy designed to bring more jobs to the downtown area and revitalize property, especially the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. plant, commonly called the Bleachery.

The Knowledge Park Leadership Group, a group of business leaders with a vested interest in downtown, has agreed to push for the changes, seen as an integral step in redeveloping the Bleachery property.

The leadership group will present expanding the tax incremental financing district to the Rock Hill school board and the York County Council. Both the board and council boards must agree to the changes and sign off on collecting any new tax revenue from the changes. Both approved the district when it was formed in 2004.

Updating the special tax district is one of the primary goals of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. for 2014. Several members of the leadership group are also RHEDC members.

The city wants to expand the district to include properties along West Main and Black streets, between Wilson Street and Stewart Avenue.

Current boundaries of the irregularly shaped district are Oakland, Columbia, Allen avenues, West Main and White streets.

The city also wants to change the financial limits for the district. The district was formed with the intent of selling bonds to update the infrastructure serving the district. The additional real estate tax resulting from the new development would be used to repay the bonds.

The concept is called tax-incremental financing. The maximum debt of the district was set at $40 million and a life of 25 years.

The city wants to adjust the debt ceiling for inflation, increasing it to $56 million. The life of the district would be extended to 2039.

While the debt ceiling would be $56 million, the amount of bonds the city could issue would be capped at $49.47 million – the debt ceiling minus the $6.5 million of debt the city has already issued through the district. The debt includes demolition of Bleachery properties and improvements to White Street.

The infrastructure improvements would be the city’s contribution to the redevelopment plans for the Bleachery site. Developers Sora-Phelps recently presented its master plan for redeveloping the site to the City Council, a $134 million investment that could create as many as 1,000 new jobs.

In a related move, the leadership group also agreed to take a role in advocating for a streetcar line that would link Winthrop University to downtown. The streetcar has been seen by some as an essential element in redeveloping the Bleachery site.

In September 2012, the leadership group endorsed the “Rock Hill Streetcar Feasibility Study” as an important element of the Knowledge Park plan.

Stephen Turner, the city’s economic developer, told the leadership group, that a “Streetcar Implementation Committee” should be formed, with the City Council creating the new committee.

The committee would have members that have an interest in redeveloping the Bleachery site, such as the city, Comporium – developer of the Downtown East office building – Winthrop University, the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp, the leadership group and affected property owners.

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, City Manager David Vehaun presented conceptual plans for a new water tank near the intersection of West Main and Laurel streets. The tank would replace an existing structure.

Because the water tank would be at one of the entrances to Knowledge Park, the city is considering its options to make the water tank an icon for the area. An option being considered is special lighting for the tank using longer-lasting diode lighting. The City Council will review options for the tank during a noon work session Thursday.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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