Rock Hill officials and executives at Comporium Communications have resumed talks to bring residences, shops and an urban park to the eastern side of downtown.
Comporium Vice President Johnny Barnes visited City Hall on Monday night for a closed-door meeting with City Council members, the latest in a series of negotiations that have unfolded for more than a year.
An announcement could come soon, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides are working on a written agreement laying out specifics for public and private investment.
A Comporium spokesman said discussions are going well but declined to comment further.
"All I can say is, we continue to work with the city on it," said vice president Glenn McFadden. "We're excited about the possibilities. We continue to make progress."
Park with water feature
The Barnes family that runs Comporium wants to bring residences and shopping and dining tenants to the corner of East Main Street and Elizabeth Lane, across from the company headquarters.
The multistory development is proposed on land now home to King Funeral Home and an adjacent office building.
Few details have been made public, but Comporium has said the development could involve ground-level stores with condos on upper levels or next to the retail tenants.
As part of the project, the city would turn the municipal parking lot across the intersection into an urban park using money from a special downtown tax district. Cost figures were not available Wednesday.
Comporium would pay for a water feature at the park, according to those familiar with the plans. Tax revenues generated by the private development would go toward repaying public costs.
Mayor Doug Echols listed a downtown park as a priority on his list of goals for Rock Hill. In a city that prides itself on public recreation, Echols would become the third mayor to champion the opening of a park, joining predecessors John Hardin (Glencairn Garden) and Betty Jo Rhea (Cherry Park).
It's a public-private partnership that marks progress for downtown, said outgoing City Manager Carey Smith, whose last day is Monday.
"We are reaching a point where we can bring an agreement forward that would represent the intentions of both parties," Smith said. "It does provide an anchor for the eastern part of downtown, as well as a significant project for Old Town as a whole."
Neighbors await progress
Downtown's eastern side boasts the newly refurbished White Home, a new community performance center, the historic East Town neighborhood and Comporium's corporate campus.
"It ties a lot of things together," said arts patron and downtown resident Harry Dalton. "We've got most of our cultural and art facilities on this end of town. I think it's very complimentary."
Neighbors haven't heard any updates for several months, said East Town leader John Miskelley.
"If it happens, that's great. I need to see it happen," said Miskelley, neighborhood association president. "Let's quit talking about it. Let's get it done."
Comporium asked East Town homeowners not to talk publicly about the project until the company announces plans, according to a neighborhood representative who asked not to be identified.
With the municipal parking lot eliminated, plans call for on-street parking along Saluda Street to serve park visitors and First Presbyterian Church, located across the street.
City, Comporium rekindle
The idea for the project grew out of a dispute between city leaders and Comporium executives.
Five years ago, the company's top brass lobbied against a proposal for a 72-unit apartment building on the municipal parking lot, saying the complex was too big and could have created traffic and crime problems.
Amid the debate, the company announced it would get more involved in downtown development discussions as a way to come up with more agreeable options.
The resulting talks added a new chapter to a long and, at times, strained relationship between Comporium and City Hall. The two sides have sparred over the years, such as with the apartment proposal and on a policy concerning the burial of overhead utility wires.
In coming weeks, city and Comporium officials plan a joint announcement trumpeting their new agreement.