Development activity strong in Rock Hill, economic leaders say

To hear economic leaders tell it, Rock Hill is open for business.

The Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. met Tuesday to offer a snapshot of the city’s development scene. The nonprofit has several major projects on its horizon, from the redevelopment of the former Herald newspaper site on West Main Street to several large-scale spec buildings waiting for new owners or tenants.

Rick Norwood, director of industrial recruitment, said there are 15 active business park projects with more than 1,900 new jobs and $294 million in new capital investment combined.

“We are fortunate to still have a strong base of pipeline interest,” he said.

Of the 15 projects, 13 are new and two expansions.

There are 10 manufacturing projects, two office and three other types.

“These are the ones that are active,” Norwood said. “There’s a lot of activity kind of percolating right now. A lot of it is driven by the over 1 million square feet of spec buildings that we have under construction all up and down the I-77 corridor.”

One in Riverwalk is 216,000 square feet. One just outside Riverwalk is 275,000 square feet. Legacy East has a 460,000-square-foot building under construction. Another 800,000 square feet of space is proposed at some stage of planning.

A few highlights include:

▪ Work continues on the former Herald site at West Main Street and Dave Lyle Boulevard. The Herald offices in October were moved to 140 Main St. The economic development group approved a 120-day inspection period extension for a contract with 132 Rock Hill. The economic group has a voluntary cleanup contract it’s waiting on for state health department approval. A consultant should be on site in 30 to 45 days. There also is an issue of a Norfolk Southern title on a rail spur that once served the site.

▪ A buyer known as Project Technicolor asked for an extension of the inspection period at one spec building in Waterford Park. Closing should come by July 12. Project Technicolor is the code name for a European company looking to expand into South Carolina. The company has 1,800 employees in 24 countries, with worldwide sales at more than $400 million. The $8.9 million investment would add 25 jobs paying an average of almost $30 an hour.

Another spec building at Waterford could have a contract in the next month. A Charlotte developer approached the economic development group with a letter of intent to buy a 46,000-square-foot office and warehouse building.

▪ Property in the Southcross Corporate Center, behind Home Depot, sold to a builder who plans to put offices there. Two of three remaining Riverwalk sites have spec buildings on them.

▪ TechPark, opposite Anderson Road from York Tech, has a new business in senior care company Providence Care. TechPark has a site with a contract pending and another under contract, another with a site plan in progress and still 50,000 square feet available.

▪ The economic development group executed a contract April 4 on Aspen Business Park. A due diligence period runs through July 3 on the 95-acre site between Celanese Road and Heckle Boulevard. Norfolk Southern has a draft agreement in place to relocate an Aspendale Road rail crossing to Museum Road to aid the project.

▪ Legacy West has a 20-acre site still available, while Legacy East has a recently completed spec building at almost 200,000 square feet. One more than twice that size is under construction.

“There’s quite a bit of prospect activity on land that’s not in industrial parks at this time,” Norwood said. “All of them on the I-77 corridor. It just underscores the need for us to continue to develop business parks so we have sites.”

In Knowledge Park, a roughly 400,000-square-foot former warehouse is being converted. Baxter Mill likely will be renamed. The new name hasn’t been announced, nor have potential tenants.

“Going from warehouse distribution use to office use, to a significant amount of office use,” said David Lawrence, Knowledge Park development manager.

At the Herald property, a letter of intent has been signed and the economic group is working on details for a development agreement.

“The design is going through different iterations,” Lawrence said. “Especially with things like a parking deck there as well as the bridge connection. The pedestrian bridge has been discussed, lands if you will on the Herald property.”

Lawrence recently received a proposal for redevelopment of the Good Motors site on the other side of Dave Lyle.

“It’s a strong, well-conceived, serious proposal,” Lawrence said.

Much of the needed work on those sites involves environmental issues, making the sites ready to limit cleanup liability for new owners.

South Oakland Avenue area redevelopments are in discussion, Lawrence said, while the former cotton warehouse on Dave Lyle has redevelopment already underway. Areas around the city post office are drawing considerable redevelopment interest, too.

“We’re receiving inquiries and talking to folks,” Lawrence said.

The economic group focuses on large business, but also new business. David Warner, director of the city’s technology incubator, said almost a dozen potential entrepreneurs contacted him for information the past five weeks. In August, Warner’s group is hosting a startup weekend event to help people through that process.

“This is something we’ve never seen before,” Warner said. “We’ve never had a wide-open community opportunity here to educate the community on what it feels like start, over the weekend, a new business.”

By John Marks, Staff Reporter with The Herald