York property identified for new business park

An expanse of woods and fields along U.S. 321 and Alexander Love Highway (S.C. 5) may be the face of York’s economic future.

The Greater York Chamber of Commerce has identified about 300 acres of undeveloped property on the outskirts of the city as a prime location for a future business park and is working with property owners in the area to plan for a new industrial development on the site.

The property, which falls on either side of Alexander Love Highway and parallels Filbert Highway north to Goins Lane, was selected as a potential development site primarily because of its location and its relative readiness for new tenants to move in – the property is already connected to utility services from the city. The area is also zoned for industrial uses, which removes one potential barrier to setting up the park.

A chamber committee looked at other potential sites along S.C. 5 before settling on this one, which is divided between six landowners. That committee will meet at the chamber Wednesday to discuss how best to move the project forward.

The owners have signed a memorandum of understanding in developing the property with the chamber and a team of surveyors to examine the layout of the site and draw up a proposed design.

“They all have no structures on them. They’ve been partly cleared, the rest of it is wooded, and there’s currently no access to it,” said Paul Boger, executive director of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce. “(The surveyors) determined what parts where too low-laying, where there are gulleys and power lines going through it.”

The envisioned site stretches over 111 acres north of the bypass along Filbert, one 90-acre site south of the bypass, and another 60 acres on the other side of Ratchford Road. The designs by the firm Keck and Wood cost a total of $6,000, split three ways between the city of York, the York County Economic Development Board and the property owners.

Plans for the site call for a small office complex next to about 12 manufacturing buildings covering somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 square feet. Some of the buildings are close enough they could be combined into a larger 150,000- to 160,000-square-foot building.

“The economic development board has said many manufacturers now are looking at these smaller facilities,” said Robert Winkler, a York financial adviser and county councilman who formerly chaired the search committee.

The site is already highlighted on the county’s economic development website, ycedb.com, under its “property search” feature that businesses often use to search for future development sites, so it will be on the radar for companies looking to build in York.

The park outline abuts one property that’s also listed for sale: the former Champion plant on Ratchford Road.

Two active industries also border the property: AJAX Rolled Ring and Machine located behind Champion and the Filtration Group on Filbert Highway, which would run into the park to the north and east. Boger said all those properties could serve as future additions to the business park once development gets underway.

Long term, officials still want a new industrial park to anchor development on the western side of the county. Ideally, that site would be located on S.C. 5 near the Cherokee County line and Interstate 85. The chamber committee looked at locating a site closer to the county line but couldn’t find a suitable location.

While the Filbert Highway site already has water and sewer service from the city of York, Winkler said the committee couldn’t find a site with existing utility service farther out S.C. 5 and would likely need an agreement with the town of Blacksburg or Cherokee County to provide services to any location as close to I-85 as it would like.

Boger also cites the region’s topography as a challenge. Closer to the foothills, there’s less flat ground capable of holding multiple large buildings. The chamber believes an I-85 park is possible as a multi-county development, but only after a lot more groundwork is done.

“We have to look for the low-hanging fruit,” Winkler said. “The western part of the county is a great spot long-term, but not anytime soon.”

But Boger hopes a future business park on the York site could be equally attractive to manufacturers who want access to the interstates on either side of the county.

“From here, you can hit either I-85 and head toward Atlanta or go down I-77 to Columbia and go on to Charleston,” Boger said.

U.S. 321 is one of the main corridors identified by York County Economic Development that could act as a magnet for new businesses and industries, along with S.C. 5.

“Over time, Highway 5 has attracted a lot of interest from folks. But we have to identify where we can find the highest potential,” said York County Economic Development Director David Swenson, adding that a public-private partnership may be the way to build a western park. “Our key approach has been to the corridors that can bring opportunity for development.”

Meanwhile, if the park in York moves forward, Boger believes the York park manufacturing centers will have a big impact on the local economy.

“This has the potential to offer a lot of jobs to citizens in York and York County,” he said.

By Bristow Marchant, Staff Reporter with The Herald