Rock Hill adds to downtown vision with sale of space for 100-unit apartment building

A second apartment building on East Main Street has the go-ahead from the Rock Hill City Council. It will go on the corner of Main and Dave Lyle by the parking garage from Lat Purser, the same developer doing the 139 Main construction.
A second apartment building on East Main Street has the go-ahead from the Rock Hill City Council. It will go on the corner of Main and Dave Lyle by the parking garage from Lat Purser, the same developer doing the 139 Main construction. aburriss@heraldonline.com

More apartments could be coming to downtown Rock Hill after the city sells a small corner lot to a developer.

The Rock Hill City Council gave its initial approval Monday night to the sale of less than an acre near the intersection of East Main Street and Dave Lyle Boulevard for a future residential building.

The land will be sold to Lat Purser & Associates of Charlotte and the Tuttle Company of Rock Hill, the same developers already building another apartment and residential walkway at 139 Main less than a block away.

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Doug Echols said the planned use of the site is consistent with the city’s vision of a vibrant downtown district.

“We’ve worked with various partners to ensure the residential development of downtown,” Echols said.

The new apartments will go up on a site of approximately half an acre, although the city’s economic development director, Stephen Turner, said the exact boundary of the property is yet to be determined.

The new apartments will sit narrowly between the public right of way on East Main Street and a city parking garage to the rear. A portion of an open-air parking lot would be included in the property according to the map attached to the city ordinance approved by the council.

Developers would pay the city $525,000 for the site, a price based on what the companies paid per square foot for the 139 Main site.

Construction of 139 Main, on the site of the former Woolworth building, began earlier this month, closing portions of the public parking lot off East White Street as well as the East Main Street sidewalk and some on-street parking spaces.

Echols said the city has long wanted to push more residential development downtown. Rock Hill also plans a mix of residential and commercial uses in the Knowledge Park development on the site of the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. Echols hopes more apartments will be built in the downtown area.

“These are going to be our flagship properties,” Echols said of the two Main Street apartment buildings. “Why I’m excited for this property is that it will drive retail and other activity downtown.”

Turner said the city has had success in recent years on reviving downtown as a business district, but to get to where Rock Hill wants downtown to be, they need a more varied presence along Main Street.

“Downtown has gone about as far as it can go in terms of attracting people from three, four, five miles out,” Turner said. “For it to continue to grow, we need more people to be downtown organically, not just because they’re going to a restaurant or a festival.”

Combined with the Knowledge Park development on the other side of Dave Lyle Boulevard, the city wants residents to be able to move anywhere between Winthrop University and downtown “without the necessity of using a car.”

“Once you’re in a car, you can go anywhere,” Turner said, “but a lot of people now, particularly millennials, want to live, work and play in the same place.”

Once complete, the new building will open between 75 and 100 apartments to the public, or more than double the number of units at 139 Main.

That’s because developers will have more space to build out, with open space on both sides of the newer building, whereas the 139 Main property has to fit between two existing buildings.

“With this one, we’ll have it double-loaded, with one central hallway and apartments on both sides,” said Skip Tuttle, president of the Tuttle Company. “Unlike other apartments, this will be all interior corridors without a walk-up.

The planned four-story building will be similar in design and appearance to the 139 Main property, with apartments and balconies on both the street and rear side of the building. The floor plan calls for apartments with 750 to 1,000 square feet.

Early interest in 139 Main, which will feature 37 units, leads the development partners to believe there will be strong demand for the new apartments as well. Construction could begin as soon as all the 139 Main units are leased, Tuttle said, even before work on that property is finished.

“There are more than 5,000 employees within a mile of downtown,” Tuttle said.

Keeping those employees downtown in their off-hours would fit with Rock Hill’s vision. City planners hope that in the future residents will live, work and shop in the same area.

Earlier this summer, Rock Hill unveiled tightened standards on apartment construction that will drive multi-family developments into areas that promote “walkability” – i.e., in close proximity to commercial areas.

Those changes followed a year-long moratorium on new apartment construction – a moratorium that specifically excluded the downtown corridor.

“Every great city is built around a strong central downtown, and that’s what our downtown and ‘Old Town’ initiatives are geared toward,” said Echols. “If you have to get in a car to go everywhere, you’re going to end up a lot of the time sitting in traffic.”

But the tenants in the new building will have their own cars. Tuttle said he would like to enter a parking agreement with the city to reserve one parking space per unit in the Black Street garage for future residents. The city garage has more than 200 parking spaces.

Developers entered into a similar agreement for 139 Main, reserving 40 spaces in the city’s White Street lot for residents during nights and weekends. That lot has 193 spaces.

Sale of the half-acre at East Main Street and Dave Lyle Boulevard will follow a 120-day inspection period, after which the city could decline to close the sale if not satisfied with the project.

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome