Rooms To Go eyes Celanese land

Rooms To Go is eyeing the former Celanese site for a giant distribution center, local officials confirmed Friday.

York County Manager Jim Baker said Rooms To Go Inc., one of the nation's largest furniture retailers, is in discussions with county and City of Rock Hill officials to build a distribution center at the site near Cherry Road and Interstate 77.

Rooms To Go would become the first major company to commit to building at the 1,000-acre parcel, now called River Falls.

Rooms To Go president Steve Buckley this week told the Charlotte Business Journal the proposed 800,000-square-foot distribution center would employ up to 600 workers. He said the company's smaller distribution center currently in Charlotte will remain open. The new center would likely open in 2010.

Buckley's Tampa, Fla., office said he was out of town and not available for additional comments Friday.

Since 2005, when the Celanese textile mill closed its doors, a partnership called the Greens of Rock Hill has spent $40 million cleaning the River Falls site and designing a 10- to 15-year, $600-million plan that includes what would become the Charlotte region's largest industrial park, a cluster of retail shops and upscale housing.

York County Council Chairman Buddy Motz said the Rooms To Go deal will rely on local leaders widening Cel-River Road, which runs along the property's western boundary.

"We're getting close to having it widened," Motz said, adding York County and S.C. Department of Commerce funds may be used to pay for improvements. "That's a heavily traveled road anyway.

"(Rooms To Go) would be terrific because so many people are out of a job," Motz said. "That's a place people can just go right to work."

Baker said final details of the deal are still being negotiated between the company and local economic development officials.

Rock Hill Economic Development Director Stephen Turner said widening Cel-River Road will be key not only for securing Rooms To Go, but the entire development. He said the road's current conditions are not adequate for the expected traffic.

"A much broader set of discussions about that road are underway," Turner said, noting Rock Hill plans to annex the entire site. "This is certainly a great start for the Celanese property."