Rock Hill OK’s Knowledge Park development deal


Plans for the future development of Knowledge Park are now in place.

The Rock Hill City Council approved a 45-page agreement with development partnership Sora-Phelps on Monday that paves the way for construction on the former textile site to begin.

“This will take place over many years, and if there are changes in the council or the developer, this agreement will survive,” said Stephen Turner, the city’s economic and urban development director.

Monday’s vote came one week after the York County Council gave its approval to extending the park’s special tax district for another 10 years, allowing development of the project to move forward. The City Council also approved final reading of an ordinance it initially passed last year authorizing the extension of the tax district.

The first phase of work on the project will focus on the Lowenstein building, a renovated part of the old Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co., and future student housing to serve Winthrop University. Getting those projects up and running will “leverage” future development on the site, Turner said.

Some conditions will need to be met before work can begin. The city and the developer will have to approve a separate financing agreement; most of the money for construction will come from tax-district funding.

All tax revenue raised above what the property within the district was worth in 2004 can pay for the improvements. By law, money raised from the special tax district can only be spent on public infrastructure improvements within the district. The bulk of the funding is expected to come from a private investment of $106 million per year. Once the site is complete, Knowledge Park should generate $2.8 million in tax revenue per year.

The site also will need to be rezoned before construction can go forward.

Sora-Phelps was selected as the developer after a competitive bidding process in 2013. The partnership is a joint venture between Sora Development of Towson, Md., and Phelps Development of Greeley, Colo.

Monday’s vote completes a process that began last year, when the city first requested a 10-year extension of the tax district from the Rock Hill school district and York County. Members of the County Council and other county residents were skeptical of ceding revenue growth to the city until 2039, and the County Council set several conditions on an extension before giving its approval.

City Council members on Monday tried to address those concerns.

“People in the western areas of the county, their tax money does not go into this,” said Councilman John Black. “It only raises money from within in the district.”

Councilwoman Kathy Pender added, “but they will reap the benefit that wouldn’t have happened without these extraordinary measures.”

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062