After a couple of months on the sidelines, Knowledge Park is back on track after the Rock Hill City Council on Tuesday approved a revised master plan for the White Street site.
The revised plan includes space for an indoor recreational facility and an increased number of residential units but less green space or space for commercial use.
The council gave initial approval to the developer’s plans in January but shelved those plans while the city and the developer, Sora-Phelps, went back into negotiation on aspects of the development and financial agreements, which ultimately included working the proposed indoor sports complex into the mix.
The sports complex – which will include space for basketball, volleyball and other activities inside a 164,000-square-foot facility – was not originally part of the plan for the West White Street property. Instead, it was proposed by the city sports commission in January to complement other sports tourism sites.
Sports commissioners recommended placing the facility in Knowledge Park – the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site – so Winthrop University athletics would have easy access. Plans shown to the council Monday place the facility along the railroad tracks near the back of the property.
The addition of the sports complex necessitated other changes to the plans submitted by Sora-Phelps. A denser site plan adds 73 more housing units to the initial plan – 141 apartments (up 11), campus housing for 499 students (69 more than originally considered) and 93 senior-living apartments (instead of 90).
The student housing sites are now much closer together, eliminating space that would have been open in the original plan. Commercial space also will be reduced. Restaurants and retail businesses drop to 85,000 square feet from 118,000. The existing Lowenstein building – at 228,000 square feet – would now be the only space available for office use, a reduction of 42,000 square feet.
A “boutique” hotel on the site, in contrast, has grown from 60 rooms to 140.
Designer Tim Elliott told the council Tuesday the revised plan still provides plenty of public space, citing space for curbside eating on a cul-de-sac around an island.
“If Rock Hill hosts a bluegrass festival one day, the amphitheater at Winthrop could host one stage, this space could have another, and you could have another stage in Fountain Park,” Elliott said.
Much of the council’s discussion of the revised plan focused on parking. While the developer’s plans call for 2,084 mostly off-street parking spaces, Sora-Phelps wants to add 37 interior, street-level spaces at a 90-degree angle to the roadway. City planners asked for parallel parking like other downtown spaces, which would allow for 48 parking spaces.
“Parallel parking is a much more urban kind of parking,” said Councilwoman Kathy Pender, “and we want this to look like an urban environment.”
Councilman John Black, on the other hand, said he was indifferent to the style of parking.
“Whenever I try to parallel park, the driver behind me is so unfamiliar with it, they come right up on my bumper,” Black said.
In the end, the council approved a parallel plan but authorized city management to switch to perpendicular parking after consulting with the developer.
Mayor Doug Echols then called for a final vote on the plan, “unless we want to get into paint colors,” he said.
The council approved the plan 6-1, with Councilman Kevin Sutton voting against. Sutton had earlier said the master plan was too restrictive of the city’s ability to control design elements like the height of individual buildings.