Focusing energy, time and money into the Knowledge Park corridor will help transform Rock Hill from a successful city to a significant one, according to the city’s new mayor, John Gettys.
Rock Hill economic leaders say they want to focus this year on maximizing Knowledge Park’s potential as a job haven and entertainment hub, while continuing to develop sites and buildings needed to attract businesses and growth to the area.
Stephen Turner, executive director of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp., laid out the two main goals during a joint meeting Thursday of Rock Hill City Council and RHEDC at Rock Hill Operations Center on South Anderson Road.
Turner said Knowledge Park, a one-square-mile area targeting “knowledge economy businesses” and an urban walkable lifestyle in Rock Hill, will soon “transform” the city as a place where businesses can thrive among an active consumer base. The Knowledge Park area roughly stretches from Winthrop University to Fountain Park.
The area includes a key 23-acre redevelopment project called University Center midway between Main Street and Winthrop.
“Knowledge Park will mean a new opportunity to be connected to (Rock Hill),” said Nikita Jackson, Rock Hill’s new council member representing Ward 5. “It will help take our city into a new dimension.”
Several high-profile projects are expected to grow in the area over the next few years, including a proposed $25 million 170,000-square-foot indoor sports arena near West White and Laurel streets.
Cambria Hotels and Suites has inked a deal to build a 110-room, six-story hotel next to the arena. Work could begin on the new hotel later this year, according to Michael Wendel, president of Sand Hospitality.
“The market is strong right now,” he said. “If the market hits a recession, we won’t have as much opportunity for growth. The time is right, we need to take advantage of what’s happening right now, for the benefit of the community.”
Gettys said he appreciates the RHEDC’s proposed goals, which include engaging with the public to learn more about what they want to see from Knowledge Park. The City Council will next consider endorsing the goals at its Jan. 22 meeting.
“I think Knowledge Park will change Rock Hill and take it from a successful city to a significant city,” said Gettys, who was officially installed as Rock Hill’s mayor earlier this week. “If we reach and take the bold steps as we’re required that will say more about our community than anything else.”
Economic officials say they want to better connect Knowledge Park with residents, business leaders and other stakeholders. They plan to hold public forums to help form a five-year action plan for Knowledge Park.
“We must engage the public,” said Bev Carroll with RHEDC. “We need to make Knowledge Park meaningful to them.”