Rock Hill city officials are preparing to add a project meant to enhance the downtown area.
In Monday's City Council meeting, the city's economic development director, Stephen Turner, presented plans for the Old Town Market, a space that targets two buildings and a parking lot on Caldwell Street.
With investors looking at the former Woolworth building on East Main Street with hopes of turning it into an apartment complex, the time to develop the market area is now, Turner said. He pointed to potential new businesses downtown, such as a fitness center and three restaurants.
The Old Town Market project would consist of:
Redefined parking and enhanced lighting at the Caldwell Street parking lot, which connects with the lot on East White Street
Canopies hanging off of buildings on Caldwell Street
Converting a building owned by Main 7 LLC on Caldwell Street into an indoor Old Town Market Hall, complete with concrete floors and exposed beams
Enhanced area for the Old Town farmer's market
The area would come together through a planned public parkway through the Woolworth site to Main Street. Building storefronts also would be reoriented to face the market area.
"We wanted to use this to leverage private investors in our downtown," Turner said. "We'll take a worn-out parking lot and turn it into a new, attractive public space."
Turner said the project touches a lot of the city's strategic goals, including promoting private and public investment and reinvestment in the downtown area.
One of the biggest attractions would be the Old Town Market Hall, which would be used for smaller events and festivals. Turner said this would prevent the city from closing streets downtown during those smaller events.
Under the agreement with Main 7 LLC, which passed Monday night, the city would guarantee 30 days worth of programming for the hall.
To bring in more programming, the city would implement a "Create an Event" incentive, where $25,000 would be set aside for agencies and people who bring events to the hall. They would receive a portion of that amount for the event.
Other incentives include matching funds for storefronts up to $10,000 and a DowntownNow fund for businesses.
Through former downtown tax-increment financing funds, about $775,000 has been set aside for the project, with Main 7 LLC offering another $394,000. Talks with a third developer who owns a building in the area are under way.
Turner said if bids are taken in June, everything could be completed by the fall.
Council members liked the idea of enhancing the downtown area, but Kevin Sutton was concerned about the expense.
"What are we getting for $775,000?" he asked. "That's a large amount of money to spend on one area when I look at everything else that needs to be done in the downtown area."
Councilman John Black agreed, calling the figure a "head-scratcher."
Black said he hoped some of those funds would go to improving the White Street parking lot as well.
Turner said if any money is left that would be possible.
Council members Black, Sutton, Kathy Pender, Osbey Roddey and Jim Reno voted for the preliminary agreement with Main 7 LLC that designates the $394,000 and transformation of its building. Council member Susie Hinton cast the dissenting vote.
However, Reno said the "yes" votes were with the understanding that any future agreements and more information would pass through the council.