Council OKs rent subsidy for planned grocery store in downtown Rock Hill

A specialty grocery store is closer to opening in downtown Rock Hill in March with $54,000 of help from the city to pay rent for the first five years.

The rent subsidy would take the place of a current incentive package being offered to the building’s owner on Caldwell Street. The grocery store – called Provisions at Sandy Creek – would replace the Old Town Market Hall where seasonal farmers markets and other events are held.

If Provisions at Sandy Creek opens, the farmers market held twice a week during several months of the year would move entirely outside.

Next door to the planned grocery store, the city is helping pay $39,000 in rent for Millstone Pizza and Taphouse, which opened about two years ago. Nearby, a yoga studio opened recently, with the city helping pay for part of its rent, too. The amount of rent subsidy to Synergy Yoga & Wellness was not available on Monday night.

To help the building’s owner, Rinehart Realty, attract tenants for the Caldwell Street space, the city agreed a few years ago to pay for upgrades to the old retail building. In a related move, City Council members signed off in 2012 on a $90,000 deal with Rinehart Realty which guaranteed city officials would schedule events at the Old Town Market Hall at least 30 days per year.

Officials said most of the 30-day event commitment was fulfilled by holding the farmers markets partially inside of Old Town Market Hall.

Now that Rinehart Realty has found a retail tenant for the Market Hall space, Rock Hill economic development officials told the City Council on Monday night that the company wants the previous financial incentive commitment applied as a rent subsidy for the planned grocery store.

Rinehart Realty also requested the assurance that if the grocery store closed and left the space empty, the city would pick up leasing the Market Hall for events again, officials said.

Most City Council members on Monday said they are in support of transferring the incentive money for rent reimbursements but didn’t want the city to be on the hook for payments to the Rinehart Realty if the planned grocery would close.

In a 6-1 vote Monday, the council approved the $54,000 in rent subsidy for Provisions at Sandy Creek but rejected a move to stay under contract for the event rentals after the planned grocery store has moved in.

It’s unclear whether the council’s partial rejection of the incentives agreement will change any plans.

“I’m not sure that the two can be separated,” said Susan Lyle, performance manager with Rock Hill’s department of economic and urban development.

Lyle stressed that the proposal was only to turn money the city has already committed for event space rental into a tenant rent subsidy. Additionally, Rock Hill would save $9,000 that it would have paid for cleaning and maintenance after holding events there.

Provisions by Sandy Creek is a North Carolina-based grocery store, specializing in local meats, produce, dairy items and baked goods. The company operates stores in Waxhaw, N.C., and Belmont, N.C., each about a 30-minute drive from Rock Hill.