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Rock Hill City Council discusses Knowledge Park contracts in private

The Rock Hill City Council met behind closed doors for nearly four hours Monday night to discuss potential contracts for Knowledge Park, the city’s strategy for developing the area between downtown and Winthrop University.

City Manager David Vehaun said the council took no action during the executive session.

The meeting was held just less than two weeks after an initial memorandum of understanding with a Knowledge Park development partnership expired. Local officials had hoped to have a permanent development deal in place before the Sept. 18 expiration, but no such agreement has been reached.

During the closed-door meeting, city council members met with Tim Elliott, the former project manager for Sora-Phelps, the partnership that signed the initial one-year memorandum for Knowledge Park. The Herald reported last week that Elliott had left Sora-Phelps to form his own firm.

Vehaun said that on the advice of the city attorney, he could not comment on Elliott’s attendance during the meeting. Elliott could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Andy Shene, chairman of the Knowledge Park Leadership Group, said Elliott has always been “bullish on the Knowledge Park” and “may have an interest in continuing to work” on the project. The leadership group comprises local businessmen who have advocated for the development.

No details were released about the Monday council meeting, which was called to discuss proposed contracts. South Carolina’s open records law allows the council to discuss proposed contractual arrangements behind closed doors.

The Knowledge Park is the city’s two-pronged economic development strategy. One goal is to bring more high-tech jobs to the city. The other is the redevelopment of the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, commonly called the Bleachery.

Sora-Phelps is a partnership between Sora Development of Towson, Md., and Phelps Development of Greeley, Colo. The initial agreement between the partnership and the city gave Sora-Phelps exclusive rights to develop the Bleachery and other city-owned, downtown properties.

Sora-Phelps unveiled a master development plan last March that called for 19 buildings and a $200 million investment on the Bleachery site. Most of the investment would be private.

As proposed, the project would have 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurant, office and residential space. New businesses in the Knowledge Park would create about 1,000 jobs, Sora-Phelps estimated.

Vehaun said the city continues to move forward with a master developer agreement but declined to release any specifics.

Vehaun and Shene said the Knowledge Park remains a viable project.

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