Business leaders advocating for the technology-themed Knowledge Park development want updated cost estimates for a potential streetcar that would link Winthrop University to downtown Rock Hill.
The Knowledge Park Leadership Group also wants cost projections for transit routes on Cherry Road and Dave Lyle Boulevard that would connect to streetcar stops.
The idea is to create a larger transportation system that would extend to the Rock Hill Galleria and the Manchester Meadows soccer complex via Dave Lyle Boulevard and to Riverwalk and the city’s velodrome and BMX Supercross cycling venues via Cherry Road.
Andy Shene, chairman of the group, stressed at a meeting Friday that the streetcar’s focus continues to be as an economic generator for developing the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, commonly called the Bleachery. Master developer Sora-Phelps wants to build 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurant, residential and office space on the 23-acre site.
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The projected $200 million private investment would create about 1,000 jobs, Sora officials have said.
Business leaders also want to consider “global transportation alternatives,” Shene said, a theme that the group has considered at several recent meetings.
The Knowledge Park Leadership Group is scheduled to discuss transit options at the Rock Hill City Council’s Nov. 23 meeting. Shene said it was unclear if the leadership group will have the requested financial data by the meeting.
The streetcar has been a contentious part of the Knowledge Park development proposal.
A 2008 consultant’s study estimated the cost to build the 1.5-mile route at $20 million to $30 million, and cost $1 million to operate. The streetcar would run from Fountain Park downtown to Winthrop University. It would run on rails and share the streets with other traffic.
Sora-Phelps has continually said it favors a streetcar over alternatives such as a bus or trolley on wheels, stressing the economic benefits of a fixed streetcar line.
Development investment along a fixed line tends to be more than along a bus route that can be changed, said consultant James Brown of HDR of Charlotte. Development along a bus route is usually stops, he said, while development along a streetcar line is all along the route.
“You need numbers to attract retailers to the Bleachery,” said Tim Elliott, director of design for Sora Development. Without numbers, the redevelopment of the Bleachery would be an office park with some residential.
Elliott presented his case Friday in a broader context, showing how a streetcar would help not only the Knowledge Park development, but bring more vibrancy to downtown and could help Winthrop University grow.
If a streetcar were successful, he said, there will be “more shopping bags and more book bags downtown.”
Elliott showed the group an image of congested vehicle traffic.
“This picture is anywhere USA,” he said. “If you design for the car, you live by the car.”