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What’s next for Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park? Walking bridge of railroad and more

Knowledge Park will be key in 2018 for Rock Hill’s political, economic leaders

The Knowledge Park initiative will take on new significance in Rock Hill in 2018, according to city leaders. Knowledge Park is defined as the one-square-mile targeting “knowledge economy businesses” and an urban walkable lifestyle in Rock Hill.
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The Knowledge Park initiative will take on new significance in Rock Hill in 2018, according to city leaders. Knowledge Park is defined as the one-square-mile targeting “knowledge economy businesses” and an urban walkable lifestyle in Rock Hill.

Rock Hill residents may soon see plans for a pedestrian bridge over Dave Lyle Boulevard and the railroad tracks as planning continues for Knowledge Park.

At a joint Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. and Rock Hill City Council meeting Tuesday, Knowledge Park development groups presented nine key strategies to develop the area:

  • Connectivity: Design and build pedestrian, bike and transit connections.

  • Tourism: Make Knowledge Park an inviting destination for visitors and residents.

  • Development: Develop and redevelop strategic sites and buildings.

  • Neighborhoods: Positively impact neighborhoods.

  • Housing: Encourage and support housing development that meets community needs.

  • Marketing: Market Knowledge Park to residents, businesses and investors.

  • Talent and Skills: Support local residents in obtaining skills and jobs.

  • Jobs and business growth: Make investments for job and business growth.

  • Placemaking: Create amenities to make Knowledge Park a memorable place.

New features

Jeremy Winkler with the Rock Hill Office of Management and Budget said developing the free bus system, connecting and upgrading bike lanes in the city and building the pedestrian bridge are the most important tasks for achieving connectivity.

“We all know there’s a lot of different trails and systems around the city, but a lot of times there are gaps, and so we’re not connected,” Winkler said. “So that’s what we’re going to look at.”

Winkler said the pedestrian bridge over Dave Lyle Boulevard and the railroad tracks, owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, would be especially important for visitors at the sports complex.

He said the city hopes to encourage more visitors and residents to use bicycles.

“We know as the city continues to grow we have a lot more cyclists now than we’re used to,” Winkler said. “As more people live downtown in Rock Hill, we’re hoping they’ll use bikes to get around, so we want to make sure those cycling connections are there as well.”

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director John Taylor said the Rock Hill Sports and Event Center will be a key attraction in Knowledge Park. He said the city has 36 events booked for the complex in 2019 and 40 in 2020.

“I can tell you, we’re going to have visitors downtown,” Taylor said.

Economic and Urban Development Director Stephen Turner said redeveloping Oakland Avenue is another priority.

“It doesn’t feel like an urban, cool place to be (right now),” he said.

He said updating sidewalks and landscaping and redeveloping the former Chevy dealership building on Oakland would bring more private businesses to downtown.

Cathy Murphy, Rock Hill downtown development manager, said branding Knowledge Park through murals and an app is a marketing priority.

Murphy also said Rock Hill and Knowledge Park need to be memorable for visitors. She said creating an urban playground and encouraging an arts district in Rock Hill will draw visitors to downtown.

She wants Knowledge Park to look “fun and hip and cool. We need Knowledge Park to get to the point of hip and cool so a lot of our students also want to hang out there.”

Jennifer Wilford, director of Rock Hill Housing and Neighborhood Services, said it’s going to be important for the city to work with nearby neighborhoods in the planning of Knowledge Park.

“How do we make everyone understand that Knowledge Park is important for them? This isn’t here for somebody else,” Wilford said. “Knowledge Park is here for current residents and former residents of Rock Hill as much as it is for people coming here to be a part of it.“

She said establishing decent and affordable housing must be a priority for the city.

“We’ve taken steps, but we need to continue moving forward in that direction,” Wilford said.

University Center updates

The Tuttle Co. has asked Rock Hill for changes to the 2016 master plan for University Center, formerly the Bleachery and Knowledge Park. Those changes would update the project and align it with what’s planned now.

The site is 26 acres, bound by White and Laurel streets, Stewart Avenue and a railway in downtown Rock Hill. Rock Hill’s planning commission held a hearing Tuesday. Changes still need a Rock Hill City Council vote.

Changes include limiting bars to craft cocktail lounges, wine bars, wine shops holding wine tastings and self-serve tap rooms. Only two such bars would be allowed, neither more than 3,000 square feet. Nightclubs and dance venues would be prohibited.

Bars would be allowed in or on a rooftop of a hotel. Craft breweries are a separate, allowed use.

The center also would be allow private or city-sponsored outdoor events, such as concerts and art shows up to twice weekly, as long as music with sound systems ends by 10 p.m. Acoustic music could run to midnight.

Another proposed change is more than 1,900 parking spaces. Parking would not be tied to specific businesses within the project.

Information submitted with the requested changes shows when additions should open in University Center. The 225,000-square-foot Lowenstein Building with restaurant and 270 parking spaces is the only 2018 project listed.

Following, in 2019 would be the 170,000-square-foot indoor athletic complex, a 110-room hotel, the power plant site with 55,000 square feet of restaurant and office/apartments, an open lawn outdoor amphitheater and two parking decks with more than 1,200 spaces.

In 2020, projected additions include a 90-room hotel, 120 apartments, a market pavilion with 15,000 square feet of retail, student housing for 250 people and a 480-vehicle parking deck.

The 2022-23 window would bring 140,000 square feet of office space, an apartment building with 90 units and 6,000 square feet of retail and housing for another 250 students.

The project is expected to be completed in three to five years. The White Horse is the first approved restaurant. It will be on the second floor of the Lowenstein building.

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot
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