Rock Hill CBD Redevelopment Steadily Moves Forward

Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park, an ambitious initiative aiming to redevelop Rock Hill’s urban core, took a major step forward by selecting the project’s master developer.

Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park, an ambitious initiative aiming to redevelop Rock Hill’s urban core, took a major step forward by selecting the project’s master developer. Out of five remaining competitors, Sora-Phelps Rock Hill, was announced as master developer for the project at a recent Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. meeting, reported the Charlotte Business Journal. The next step for the new master developer will be the inking of a nonbinding agreement between Sora-Phelps Rock Hill, the city of Rock Hill, the Knowledge Park Leadership Group and Winthrop University. This will be followed by a binding contract, which will also specify the exact financial investment the developer will contribute to the project.

Sora-Phelps Rock Hill is a joint venture between Towson, Maryland-based Sora Development and Greeley, Colorado-based Phelps Development, a subsidiary of Hensel Phelps. Reportedly, the Sora-Phelps partnership’s edge for winning was Sora’s previous project, Rowan Boulevard, a $300 million urban redevelopment project in Glassboro, NJ, that links Rowan University Glassboro’s downtown retail district. The project comprises mixed-use properties featuring retail, office, hospitality, intergenerational residential and student housing in an environment with high walkability, which is along the lines of what Knowledge Park seeks to achieve.

Envisioned as Rock Hill’s center for 21st century economy, Knowledge Park as a concept emerged in 2012 as a public-private partnership, led by the Knowledge Park Leadership Group. Knowledge Park encompasses an area of circa one square mile located between the Old Town East development at Elizabeth Lane to Winthrop University at Cherry Road incorporating the old Textile Corridor in Rock Hill’s downtown, as well as landmarks such as Rock Hill City Hall and Winthrop University. It holds 18 development opportunities that have planning in place and sponsors as well as probable financing. Thirteen sites are up for development for residential, commercial or institutional development. Knowledge Park developers are being enticed with tax credits and a steady educated workforce supply provided by two major local education institutions: Winthrop University and York Technical College. Moreover, the city will invest over $50 million in infrastructure maintenance and expansion projects. According to the Herald Online, that number is in fact over $60 million and includes projects such as road maintenance and development, railroad track upgrades, a new electric substation, a new water tank and a new parking deck. Not included in this sum is a new 1.5-mile downtown trolley  line, as well as costs to demolish outdated real estate properties and the acquisition of the Bleachery, the biggest real estate asset within the park. With this investment Rock Hill officials hope to entice existing businesses to expand, as well as to lure new job creators and developers to the area.

Rock Hill is the fourth largest city in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area with a 66, 154-strong population. Rock Hill experienced a 32.9 percent population increase between 2000 and 2010. It’s projected that growth will continue between 2013 and 2018, albeit at a more temperate rate of 5.29 percent. Its 30-minute trade area is projected to grow by 8.3 percent, second only to Mecklenburg County’s 8.4 percent.

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Image courtesy of Knowledge Park Rock Hill