The grand opening for the city of Rock Hill’s Fountain Park is scheduled for Dec. 6, which marks the second finished project in the city’s revitalization efforts in an area it’s calling Knowledge Park.
The other, a 48,000-square-foot office building with a connected parking deck called Fountain Park Place, sits across the street from the park and will be occupied by Comporium Communications.
The city hopes Knowledge Park will bring new businesses to properties around the former textile site known as the Bleachery, which has awaited redevelopment since the city acquired it 2010.
The project includes the Bleachery site on 23 acres just south of Winthrop University and an additional 12 properties surrounding it.
Although the redevelopment of the Bleachery site is not expected to begin until fall 2015, the city continues to negotiate with Maryland-based Sora Development on agreements for its Knowledge Park project.
The Knowledge Park Leadership Group met last week to discuss the progress that’s been made with Sora and provide an update on other matters related to Knowledge Park.
The group discussed the expansion of the city’s textile corridor tax increment financing (TIF) district, which was approved by the City Council last month.
The city has proposed the TIF district be expanded to include the West Main Street and West Black Street corridors, both of which are southwest of the Bleachery and run along the district’s current western boundary.
David Lawrence, Knowledge Park development manager, said including that area in the district was logical because of the potential for those areas to be redeveloped, but that it’s also an area that needs infrastructure improvements.
The district was established in 2004 to issue up to $40 million in bonds for the redevelopment of the Bleachery site. But because the site has yet to be redeveloped, the city proposed an extension of the district’s expiration date to 2039 from 2029, which would allow the city up to 25 years to pay off the bonds.
The city has already spent $6.5 million, most of which was used to acquire and clean up the Bleachery site, and the proposal will keep the total cap at $40 million. The remaining $33.5 million will be used for infrastructure.
The York County Council also has to approve the proposed expansion, but Lawrence said it isn’t likely to go to the council until 2015 because the council will have two new members at the start of the year.
At last week’s meeting, the leadership group also provided an update on its process of drafting a development agreement with Sora.
Since a year-long memorandum of understanding between the city and Sora expired on Sept. 13, Sora has submitted a financial model for how development at the Bleachery site will unfold, as well as an outline of the development agreement between Sora and the city. The deadline for a draft of the agreement is Dec. 29.
The leadership group had expressed concerns at its Sept. 23 meeting about the departure of the company’s director of design, Tim Elliot, earlier this year. But Lawrence said that the project’s initial design work, which Elliot was involved with, hasn’t changed, and that the city has shifted its focus towards the project’s finances.
He said the city is working closely with Sora’s Director Tom Fore and Vice President of Development Patrick Rhodes on a financial strategy.
Knowledge Park will be a phased development project, and will include apartments and town houses, retail and office space, surface parking, a parking deck, a textile museum and an arts incubator center.
The city hopes to put in a streetcar system that would run north through the textile corridor district as well, but the leadership team agreed at last week’s meeting that this component was dependent on the rest of the project coming together.
The city hopes to have completed the $180 million project by 2020.