In 1993, real estate developer David Rogers was tasked with revitalizing an ailing downtown Rock Hill.
The work, which began with removal of the mall roof that covered Main Street, was arduous. But Rogers led revitalization of the downtown area and refurbished many of its historic buildings.
On Wednesday Rogers died of brain cancer at the age of 65. His funeral service will be at 3 p.m. today at Gilead Presbyterian Church in Huntersville, N.C.
"Rogers was the most instrumental person in bringing back the downtown district as we see it today," said former downtown property manager John T. Misskelley, who worked with Rogers on the Main Street restoration.
After Rogers' work in Rock Hill concluded, he appointed Misskelley as the de-facto caretaker of the renovated buildings.
"He was strong-willed and accomplished everything he ever set out to do," Misskelley said. "He was like a father to me."
Projects completed by Rogers include the current Wachovia Center, City Plaza, Catawba Regional Center and the Center for the Arts. Spending his own money, he refurbished the building interiors while preserving historic architecture dating back to the 1920s.
His work earned him statewide recognition, and he received the Palmetto Preservation Award. in 1995. The award is given by the Governor's Office, the state Department of Archives and History, and the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation.
Former Rock Hill city manager Russell Allen said Rogers' physical and financial dedication to the project was a testament to the passion he brought to every endeavor he undertook.
"When it came to passion, enthusiasm and skill, Rogers was absolutely the best person for the historical preservation of downtown," said Allen, now city manager in Raleigh, N.C. "His energy and investment into the city of Rock Hill will never be forgotten, and he will be sorely missed."
Rogers was a prolific real estate developer in North Carolina as well. His work can be seen throughout Charlotte and Asheville, including Asheville's Grove Arcade, which garnered six awards and a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places. All told, projects led by Rogers earned more than 30 awards.
But for his wife and business partner of nearly 40 years, the city of Rock Hill, and Rogers' work here always carried sentimental value.
"Rock Hill held a tender place in David's heart and my heart as well," Pamela Burgess Rogers said. "David loved the warmth and hospitality of Rock Hill's residents, and I believe they loved him too.
"He always considered the downtown project his special child."