John Gettys can see the arches of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Rock Hill from his new corner office.
The arch detail is repeated above doors and windows of the new office, a subtle and purposeful reminder of Rock Hill’s past and present.
While the Fountain Park Place office building is new, and the Morton & Gettys law firm is new to downtown (having moved from an Oakland Avenue office nearer Winthrop University), generations of Mortons and Gettyses have called Rock Hill home.
Morton & Gettys officially opened Monday on the third floor of Fountain Park Place at 331 E. Main St.
While the four-story office building is a large addition to downtown, it’s currently not the most accessible building. City construction crews are still working on East Main Street as well as Elizabeth Lane where Fountain Park Place is under construction. Both roads are closed to traffic.
Getting to the parking deck requires using side roads and cutting across nearby parking lots.
Even getting to the law firm’s front door requires some navigation. The main entrance is off a courtyard nestled between the building and the parking deck.
Morton and Gettys are willing to put up with some challenges to be the first tenants in a project that has a long list of firsts.
Fountain Park Place is the first major new building in downtown since 1976 when the Rock Hill National Bank opened at the corner of East Main Street and Oakland Avenue.
Fountain Park Place is also the first phase of a project called “Downtown East,” Comporium’s and the city’s vision to transform that area of downtown. The vision includes Fountain Park, a downtown hotel and a performing arts center.
Comporium invested more than $9 million in the Fountain Park Place building.
“It was a big leap of faith for Comporium,” said Warren Norman, of the Warren Norman Co., developer for the Fountain Park Place. “From a real estate standpoint, it was a risky venture. But Comporium wanted to do more than just a real estate project.”
The building is about 60 percent leased to multiple tenants, said Matt Dosch, Comporium’s executive vice president – customer operations and external affairs. The names of other tenants have not been released. Dosch said other tenants should move into the building by the end of the year.
Until the law firm gets neighbors, Morton & Gettys will enjoy the space and the amenities the building offers.
While being downtown was a primary factor for the law firm, several other reasons were considered. The firm could upfit the space as it needed, giving every attorney or staff member their own work space, something not possible at the Oakland Avenue offices.
The office also was designed to encourage collaboration, Gettys said.
A dedicated access to the parking garage and the opportunity to connect to Zipstream, Comporium’s high-speed Internet service also were considered by Morton & Gettys.
Having their own ice machine is a plus, too.
The firm’s attorneys, most of them from York County, and staff, are starting to explore downtown, Gettys said. He hopes the firm and its clients will increase downtown business activity. Gettys said he also hopes that being downtown will mean more business for the law firm.
But for James Morton, coming downtown is coming home.
“Downtown is home to my family,” said Morton, whose father, Connie, was once managing editor of The Evening Herald.
He remembers the day when people would dress up on a Saturday just go shopping in downtown Rock Hill. Rock Hill Hardware was among his favorite stores where he could buy a baseball glove. The aisles at Belk were so wide, “there was room to run,” Morton said.
Nonetheless, he says Rock Hill has “not had anything like” Fountain Park Place and the new Fountain Park. “I hope this brings more growth and expansion,” he said.