Streetcars have demonstrated the ability to catalyze development in cities both large and small across the country. When comparing the investment in streetcar infrastructure to the development spurred in part due to streetcar, the return on investment is tremendous. Nevertheless, the proposed streetcar is not a stand-alone project. Rather, it is part of a larger package of strategies to be implemented to advance the vision for Knowledge Park. If implemented in isolation, a streetcar is not likely to produce the desired outcomes. However, if treated as an integral part of a comprehensive development strategy supported by an underlying market for growth, evidence demonstrates that a streetcar project can be transformative.
The Rock Hill Streetcar project provides a unique opportunity to build upon the development momentum that has already been established with a project that advances all three of the Core Community Values and helps to create a “place where people want to be”. The streetcar project will help to overcome the divisive effects of Dave Lyle Boulevard and the Norfolk Southern railroad line, enabling better connections. Streetcars also encourage the type of walkable, mixed use development that helps to define a great place, supporting the city’s vision to grow inside first and create well-designed, sustainable neighborhoods. The Rock Hill Streetcar is poised to be the thread that ties the Knowledge Park together, helping to focus and accelerate development as part of the overall vision for growth in the city.
The proposed Rock Hill Streetcar route is approximately 1.5 miles. The streetcar will serve several key development opportunity locations including the former Bleachery property, the former Good Motors property, Old Town East, and the TownCenter Sites. The streetcar will connect key centers of activity including Old Town East, Main Street, Old Town Amphitheater, City Hall, The Cotton Factory, the former Bleachery site, and Winthrop University. The project represents a planned investment of $20 million by the City of Rock Hill with an annual operating budget of $1 million.
The City of Rock Hill is investing in new infrastructure throughout the Knowledge Park. The total capital investment program is $50.2 million. Utility services, road improvements, a streetcar, an urban park, and other projects will all be improved and developed to serve new and existing development.
Infrastructure Improvement Details
|Road Improvements||$10.4 million|
|Electric Service Improvements||$2.7 million|
|Water Service Improvements||$1.2 million|
|Other Transportation Improvements||$5.8 million|
|Urban Development Projects||$2.8 million|
|Old Town East Park Development||$7.3 million|
|Streetcar Development||$20.0 million|
A new technology incubator opens in 1st quarter 2013 within the Knowledge Park to support the growth of new businesses and create jobs. The incubator will operate under Clemson University’s Technology Villages Program. The incubator is an innovative partnership organized by the City of Rock Hill and Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation. Additional financial support has been provided by Williams and Fudge, Inc., Insignia Group, Comporium Communications, and Mr. John Barnes.
The incubator will follow a hybrid internet-consultant program model designed to support new technology company formation and development. The hybrid internet/store-front incubator program blends the attributes of real-time distance entrepreneurial learning with hands on consulting support. This program links communities to intellectual property, technology evaluation, product development services, seed financing, business mentorship, corporate relationships and recruiting. The incubator will seek to assist businesses engaged in major technology sectors including energy, life sciences, environmental sciences, water resources, defense, advanced materials, and agriculture.
The City of Rock Hill
The City of Rock Hill has selected a site and designing the addition of a 50 megawatt electric substation. This new substation will provide essentially an on-site underground electric feed to virtually any investment in the Knowledge Park. The transmission feed into this new substation is from a different section of the grid than the surrounding substations it ties with. This provides a significant advantage in the rare event of an electric failure of the transmission grid to have an alternate source to quickly restore service. The City is also investing millions of dollars in smart grid technologies such as distribution system SCADA devices and Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI) in preparation for optimization of the current electric distribution system and to be able to leverage future opportunities regarding pricing.
Knowledge Park will be served by Comporium Communication’s state-of-the-art fiber optic network. Newly-developed tracts will be served with a cutting-edge backbone network designed for maximum bandwidth speeds and a remarkable level of geographic redundancy. It will be possible for bandwidth-intensive businesses located in the Knowledge Park to have fiber-optic connections to the Internet that are geographically diverse from their buildings on-site all the way to Internet backbone interconnection locations in Northern Virginia and Atlanta.
This planned Terabit network will allow synchronous data speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, easily meeting the demands of businesses needing to transmit very large data files (e.g. graphics, video, complex designs).
In 2010, the City of Rock Hill and Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation led a planning study focused on the attraction of employment. The Old Town Jobs Initiative (OTJI) would later lead the way into the current Knowledge Park effort.
The OTJI reviewed Old Town’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities to attract and grow businesses and jobs. The study completed market research and it identified target industries which would thrive here. It explored entrepreneurial strategies that could create jobs in an organic fashion, such as at an innovation center or a technology incubator. Real estate suitable for redevelopment was studied along with macroeconomic trends and opportunities. The development of advanced technology services to serve knowledge economy businesses and create a competitive advantage was prepared. Lastly, marketing content was identified and a marketing plan was designed to accomplish the project’s goals.
The following eight (8) strategies were created at the conclusion of the OTJI and are now in implementation:
Create a Brand: The Knowledge Park at Old Town
Define the Knowledge Park at Old Town as a distinctive business location that can be successfully communicated to targeted businesses: sites, buildings, labor market, education and training partnerships, incentives, technology, existing businesses, competitive advantages, etc.
Build Advanced Technology Infrastructure
Unite the efforts of Comporium Communications, the City of Rock Hill and other potential partners to develop electric and communications infrastructure with advanced capacity, reliability and other features to create a distinct and marketable competitive advantage that attracts and serves targeted knowledge economy businesses.
Support the Formation and Growth of Local Jobs and Businesses
Stimulate entrepreneurial activity and the creation of locally-based businesses and jobs in knowledge economy industries through the development of an innovation center and/or technology incubator facility.
Prepare Sites and Buildings for Development
Identify the best real estate opportunities for employment growth in Old Town and work with owners, architects and developers to prepare these sites for effective marketing.
Attract Target Businesses
Develop business recruitment programs tailored to six (6) targeted business sectors: 1) Marketing and design services; 2) Professional services; 3) Information and communications technology; 4) Banking and financial services; 5) Advanced manufacturing; and 6) Tourism, hospitality and retail.
Design Economic Incentives
Expand existing incentive tools to best serve the Knowledge Park at Old Town. Create new incentives to assist in attracting targeted businesses.
Provide Amenities to Support a Knowledge Economy Workforce
Create urban lifestyle amenities favored by knowledge workers.
Strengthen Training and Workforce Partnerships
Develop the skills of the local workforce to support the growth of knowledge economy jobs.