A hotel, restaurants and apartments could become the new front door to Rock Hill

Rock Hill leaders have a chance to change the front door of their city, again.

Later this month Rock Hill City Council will see a second proposal for apartments, restaurants, retail, plus a hotel along the Catawba River. The more than 32-acre project on both sides of Cherry Road would replace the former Porter’s Motel, Branding Iron steak house (later Ponderosa) and surrounding sites.

Porter’s Landing comes on the heels of another major plan, Marvell, which sought more than 300 apartments, homes or patio homes and more than 200,000 square feet of office or commercial space on the river where Interstate 77 crosses into Rock Hill.

Porter’s Landing would include 370 apartments, a 130-room hotel, multiple restaurants and 50,000 square feet of commercial space. A similar plan was proposed there three years ago when city planners approved Riverside on the Catawba.

“This is a completely new plan by a new applicant,” said Eric Hawkins, city planner. “(The former plan) was a much more intense proposal. (It) included office, retail, bar and restaurant, as well as residential and hotel.”

Two Porter’s Landing buildings would have commercial space on the first floor with three stories of apartments above them. A new public road lining up with Dunkins Ferry Road would provide access, and a new traffic signal likely would come. Riverside Drive would be converted to a private drive.

City planners are concerned about traffic, with much of the area including the hotel portion served by right-in, right-out only access. The hotel site could tie into Riverwalk roads or join the Riverwalk development.

Despite traffic questions, the city planning commission voted Sept. 3 in favor of a zoning change for the plan. Council will get its first of two possible opportunities to vote on it Sept. 23.

At the recent planning commission meeting, the group heard of gated areas and amenities, possible destination retail spots and a walking trail from the Pump House restaurant under the U.S. 21 bridge into the property.

“There are very few sites in my 30 years of development where I have walked onto a piece of property and just been in awe,” said Lee Freeman, the Atlanta-based applicant seeking the zoning change. “This property, you can visualize what it can be.”

Freeman said his group isn’t trying to recreate the Fort Mill mixed-use destination Kingsley or Riverwalk but likes the layout of those projects. He also talked about Porter’s Landing serving as a front door to the city and to Riverwalk with traffic entering Rock Hill from the Fort Mill area.

Marvell and traffic

There was a similar idea at Marvell.

United Properties Group and Fiorenza Communities applied to rezone more than 49 acres where I-77 comes into the city, near Riverchase Boulevard. The planning commission heard that plan Aug. 6, voting in favor and sending it to city council.

Council voted 4-3 against the zoning change Aug. 26. Several members supported the proposal, except for one critical issue.

“The problem that we do face is the amount of traffic trying to get onto Celanese (Road),” said Councilwoman Kathy Pender.

Road improvements are ongoing at Riverchase and Riverview Road. That stretch of Celanese Road, off I-77, is considered one of the most congested in York County.

Councilman Kevin Sutton said until improvements are finished, he sided with past council decisions to not approve more projects on Celanese despite appreciating the Marvell plan.

“We don’t have the road improvements in place to know if they’re working or not,” Sutton said.

Mayor John Gettys voted in favor of the project, calling it a breath of fresh air for the city and noting the project is right beside I-77 so it wouldn’t stall the length of Celanese like others might. Gettys wanted to give initial approval so the developer and city could work out traffic issues for a property that’s been vacant since 1986.

“This is the kind of plan we need in Rock Hill, that we haven’t seen in the past,” Gettys said. “We have a real opportunity to do some really neat things in the community.”

As with Porter’s Landing, much of the conversation with Marvell involved the curb appeal for the city.

“The corridor coming south on 77 is very highly visible, so we’ve been working for quite a while behind the scenes to try to create a really unique opportunity for this particular site,” said applicant Adam Fiorenza.

River trending

Development along the Catawba River is a growing trend.

Duke Energy applied to create a riverfront park on the Rock Hill side. York County bought almost 2,000 acres for Project Destiny, an Anne Springs Close Greenway style vision downriver. Riverwalk is a growing community, and a former pump house on the water is now the Pump House restaurant.

In Fort Mill, several large residential developments on or near the water came in recent years including Waterside at the Catawba, Spratt property along Fort Mill Parkway and Masons Bend. Tega Cay has added Catawba Park along the river, too.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald

John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
Support my work with a digital subscription