Knowledge Park supporters want to market economic development plan better

While several key steps are pending before a developer can break ground with new construction on the old Bleachery site in Rock Hill, local business leaders who support the redevelopment say their plans need to be shared more effectively with people throughout the city and York County.

To spread the word about “Knowledge Park,” the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. plans to hire a marketing firm, officials said on Tuesday. A consultant will revamp the RHEDC’s main website and specifically the Knowledge Park brand.

Knowledge Park is a job-creation and economic development strategy set to transform old textile land and buildings near downtown Rock Hill. The business park plan centers on the old Bleachery site – formally called the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co. – and includes nearly 100 acres around West White Street, between downtown and Winthrop University.

RHEDC’s director, Stephen Turner, did not say how much it may cost to hire a marketing firm. The group plans to interview consultants and hopefully choose a firm in November, he said.

City of Rock Hill officials, RHEDC and a group of volunteer business leaders are championing the Knowledge Park plans as a way to attract new, high-tech companies to Rock Hill and create about 1,000 jobs. The development will include office, commercial, entertainment and residential uses.

Before developers can move in though, city officials are waiting for approval to reset the clock on an existing special tax district that will financially support public investments around Knowledge Park. Rock Hill’s City Council also wants to increase its ability to borrow money for various public projects and expand the reach of the tax district.

Because the textile area tax district would require that York County and the Rock Hill school district forgo some property tax money until 2039, the city needs both entities to approve the plan. The tax district for Knowledge Park is known as a “tax increment finance district” or “TIF.”

By setting up a special tax district around the Bleachery site and expanding it along West Main Street, city officials hope to exclusively collect property tax from new development in the area until 2039. In areas of the city where there is no tax district, the county, school district and the city share property tax revenues from homes and businesses.

So far, York County and the Rock Hill school board have not given their consent to extending and expanding the Knowledge Park tax district. An existing tax district in the area was agreed upon in 2004 and is set to expire in 2029.

On Tuesday, members of the Knowledge Park Leadership Group emphasized the importance of resetting the tax district in order to continue prepping the area for future development. If the tax district is approved, it’s expected that city officials will complete a development deal with Sora-Phelps, a partnership between a development firm and a construction company.

Sora-Phelps has been chosen to lead the Knowledge Park development.

The company’s founder and director told Rock Hill leaders Tuesday that the point person assigned to Knowledge Park has left the company to start his own firm. Sora’s Tim Elliott was serving as lead developer for Knowledge Park until June, officials said.

But Sora’s Tim Fore said his company is still enthused about the project and economic development in Rock Hill. Knowledge Park is “in good hands with us,” Fore said.

Rock Hill has plenty of opportunities for growth and benefits from great leaders with the city, local businesses and its schools and college, Elliott said.

Knowledge Park, he said, “has nowhere but up to go.”