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Why Rock Hill is giving back $120K to businesses. And it isn’t just for beer

The city of Rock Hill plans to offer economic incentives to new breweries and other projects.
The city of Rock Hill plans to offer economic incentives to new breweries and other projects. Herald file photo

Rock Hill is giving back almost $120,000 in business fees, because leaders say what the city gets in return is even more valuable.

Several breweries, coffee and health drink shops, and office jobs are the latest additions to receive economic incentives to revitalize historic parts of the city.

Some are up and running. Some are close. All are bringing new life to former mill or industrial areas.

Rock Hill started its incentive program in 2005. It’s designed to encourage and support investment in specific areas. Incoming businesses can be reimbursed for impact fees, building permit and utility fees. Economic development leaders review projects, but the Rock Hill City Council has final say.

David Lawrence, Knowledge Park development manager, said several projects qualify for incentives.

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A building at 120 E. Main St. is being renovated, with a dozen new jobs expected. The site is a former investment and insurance business. The lower level will be a restaurant and brewery setup, while the upper floor is office space. Design and social media marketing firm Social Design House already is operating upstairs.

Tattoos and Brews will add to Rock Hill’s brewery scene, as expected in recent years after the success of Legal Remedy Brewing on Oakland Avenue. Early last year, Lawrence told the Herald at least four breweries were considering the Knowledge Park area.

In this Aug. 24, 2016 file video, Rock Hill's Legal Remedy Brewing Co. celebrated its second "Beerthday." The brewery's brewmaster showed off some of its operations, including a walk-in cooler that houses around 60 barrels and about 500 kegs.

Another such site is Slow Play Brewing, coming to the former Fourman’s Repair Shop site at 274 Columbia Ave. The brewery and taphouse will create 15 jobs. Initial plans were to open Slow Play this summer.

“This project is very much in process,” Lawrence said. “They’re going through applications and seeking regulatory approvals.”

The building has been around much longer than the city’s impact fees, but adding new utility lines can bring impact fees typically thought of only with new construction. There will be other tenants at the site, too, which could mean more lines.

“They will be one of the tenants,” Lawrence said of Slow Play. “This will be a multi-tenant building.”

Documents submitted to the city for prior approvals showed a 3,000-square-foot tasting room.

Yet another brewery is getting close to opening and is one of four businesses at 130 W. White St., where owners were approved to receive money back from utility and impact fees. The 125-year-old building there will become a brewery, home furnishings design studio, coffee house and health drink shop.

“These are the (former) cotton warehouses that are adjacent to the Cotton Factory,” Lawrence said. “They were acquired and have been under renovations for several months now.”

Knowledge Perk opened in June. Dust Off Brewing Co. posted several times online this month that an opening date announcement is close.

The biggest reimbursement approved by the city is more than $95,000 for multiple projects at the Lowenstein Building on White Street. They include training and office space for the already opened Atlas Copco, Skyline Steel, Keck & Wood and The Tuttle Co.

“These are all different tenant spaces within the Lowenstein Building,” Lawrence said.

The paybacks involve water and sewer, along with fire impact fees. As more projects come into the building, more requests to receive money back could come.

“They would be eligible for that,” Lawrence said.

The University Center site, a converted textile mill, is 23 acres. The Lowenstein Building is 228,000 square feet and is part of a redevelopment to include an indoor sports arena, hotel, parking decks and more.

Developers say University Center will bring $140 million in private and $55 million in public investment, about 1,000 new jobs and residents each and about $3.2 million in annual property tax revenue.

The city approved giving back $95,919 for the Lowenstein Building projects, plus $15,987 in utility and impact fees for 130 W. White St., another $7,067 in building, utility connection and impact fees for Slow Play Brewing and $990 for building permit fees at 120 E. Main St.

At the same Aug. 13 meeting where the Rock Hill City Council approved the incentives, the group voted in favor of a change allowing Adult Spectrum Transitions to work with animals at its vocational site for adults with autism. Early plans were for the group to focus on vehicle maintenance, but permitting issues led leaders to add a dog daycare setup at the former state transportation department site on Camden Avenue.

Founder Tim Newman said there still will be work with vehicles there, but working with animals provides “much more of a fit” for many autistic adults.

“It’s also more consistent with the skill set of young adults on the spectrum,” said Newman, the father of two autistic adults.

Adult Spectrum needs city approval in case they start working with 20 animals or more, though to start that isn’t the plan.

“With the pilot program, we’re looking to have 12 to 15 young adults employed by this fall, and usually in the research we’ve done three to four animals per person is about the max you’d want,” Newman said. “So if we have three or four folks working in the dog day care, that’s probably 15 animals tops. We’re going to start small.”

The program is dependent on a grant application. Adult Spectrum has a ribbon cutting planned Aug. 22.

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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