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Riverwalk talk

Homebuilders ‘going wide-open’ in Rock Hill project

ROCK HILL, S.C. — It might be called Riverwalk, but, according to homebuilders involved in the project, home sales in the 1,000-acre mixed-use development off and running, not walking.

Which is only fitting: Along the Catawba River, the $600 million “lifestyle” development, which could take up to 15 years to finish, is centered on outdoor and indoor activities, such as bicycling, kayaking and trail-hiking.

Alan Banks, owner of Coghill Homes, said he's "very bullish" on Riverwalk. Photo by Nell Redmond

In that spirit, the two homebuilders who are launching Phase 1 of the development’s residential portion, which could eventually include 770 single-family homes, said they are selling houses as quickly as they can build them.

“We are just going wide-open down there,” said Jim Burbank, chairman of homebuilder Saussy Burbank, which has offices in North and South Carolina.

“This is simply turning out to be our best community in 2012. We’ve opened our model there and sold at least 20 homes since February, which is pretty unusual in this market. And we have more on the way.”

Saussy is selling homes in Riverwalk for $242,000 to $329,000, Burbank said.

Charlotte custom homebuilder Evans Coghill Homes is seeing similar success with its homes at Riverwalk, owner Alan Banks said, even though it started work about five months after Saussy.

“We have sold two homes, and we’re very pleased with two, because our model opened only 30 days ago,” said Banks, who is selling homes roughly in the same price range as Saussy.

“We’re very bullish. It’s a very exciting neighborhood, because it’s a great lifestyle neighborhood. It’s the first one in Charlotte in several years, because no financing was available to developers. But this is a great public-private partnership.”

The partnership is between Cincinnati-based Assured Group of Cos., which specializes in rehabilitating and repurposing brownfields, and the city of Rock Hill, which pumped $50 million into the project.

In exchange for their $50 million investment, Rock Hill officials say they are counting on Riverwalk to provide 4,000 jobs, and they are hoping the project’s Rock Hill Outdoor Center will generate millions of dollars a year in tourism.

Riverwalk is on the former site of the Celanese industrial complex, on which Assured Group spent millions of dollars in demolishing and preparing for the development.

Here’s a rundown on what’s in the immediate future for Riverwalk, according to Assured Group’s Dave Williams, project director for Riverwalk:

  • The first multifamily housing is in the offing. “We’re in the process of entering into an agreement with a builder to construct the first multifamily residences, 150 units,” Williams said. In addition to the single-family homes, 500 apartments and 300 townhomes are planned for Riverwalk.
  • Construction on the first industrial building, a 100,000-square-foot office building, is under way. When finished, the office building will join Riverwalk’s first commercial building, a 6,500-square-foot events center called Brakefield.
  • A bicycle motocross, or BMX, trail is under construction. It will join the $5 million Giordana Velodrome, a specially designed indoor bicycle-racing track that in August was home to the USA Cycling International Omnium Track National Championships. The velodrome — believed to be the first of its kind on the East Coast — the BMX track and a canoeing/kayaking facility together are being called the Rock Hill Outdoor Center.
  • Work has also begun on an 8-acre greenspace.
  • Also, the first phase of constructing retail space will begin in six to eight months, with an expected opening in 2014. “We’re talking to a number of retailers, and that is getting ready to go forward,” Williams said.

Seven years in the planning, the sprawling Riverwalk project will eventually have a “Town Center,” featuring 650,000 square feet of offices and stores, and a “River District,” 200,000 square feet of office, retail and residential development.


BROWN can be reached (704) 247-2912, [email protected], or on Twitter at @tonymecktimes.

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