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Sora-Phelps Gives Broad Outline for Development

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The master developer of the Knowledge Park area in Rock Hill wants to find a way to bring together Winthrop University and the city’s Old Town community in a mix of retail, restaurants, senior housing, parks and offices. It would be similar to the company’s previous projects.

Sora Development has agreements signed to become the primary developer of the site that’s dominated by 23 acres that used to be the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co.

I caught up with Tim Elliott, director of design at Sora as he was driving between meetings in Rock Hill last week. I wanted to know what he envisioned for the Knowledge Park, which is expected to link downtown Rock Hill and the university.

The building that seemed to attract the most attention for Elliott, a designer, is a 45,000-square-foot former boiler building with two 200-foot smokestacks.

“A restaurant would be good there,” he said.

That brings up another concern that Rock Hill city fathers want out of the Knowledge Park redevelopment: jobs.

He wants to create a symbiotic mix between the city and the university that will attract “life-long learners” to be near Winthrop.

“Academic centers attract the creative-class of people” who will take classes and start businesses that will populate the offices of the Knowledge Park, Elliott said. That then will attract other supporting businesses to the area, he added.

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Sora-Phelps Named as Master Developer

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Sora-Phelps has been picked as the master developer for the Knowledge Park project in Rock Hill.

Sora-Phelps Rock Hill is a partnership between Sora Development of Towson, Md., and Phelps Development of Greeley, Colo.

The firm was chosen among five competing master developers for the project, which includes the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing site and parcels in the Old Town section of the central business district.

The next step is a nonbinding agreement among the city, Winthrop University, the Knowledge Park Leadership Group and Sora-Phelps. Later comes a binding contract among the parties that spells out how much the developer will contribute to the project.

Sora-Phelps stood out among the other firms because of its $300 million project that linked Glassboro, N.J., with Rowan University, located in the Philadelphia area.

Plus Sora Phelps has said it’s willing to make investments in Knowledge Park, says Andy Shene, leader of the Knowledge Park Leadership Group, a collection of businesspeople with operations in the Old Town area.

“They have said, ‘We want to put our cash into Rock Hill to help this development,’” Shene says. He declined to estimate just how much would be required of the partnership.

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How to Make a Real Estate Development RFQ More Appealing to Developers

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ED NOW:  News & Resources for Effective Economic Development International Economic Development Council

Communities across the nation are faced with vacant or underutilized properties that need to be redeveloped. Often, these are large, strategically located properties that are important to the social and economic fabric of the community.

When market conditions are inadequate to entice private redevelopment without significant public investment, a community may issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to engage a real estate developer. When an economic development organization or local government issues an RFQ, it is not just to advertise the availability of the property, but more importantly, to generate developer interest in the opportunity.

Often the opportunities presented via RFQ have economic, social, or physical impediments. In the most challenging circumstances, a community may have multiple properties lacking market interest, redevelopment ideas, or feasible real estate development strategies. The RFQ is essentially a request for help, asking developers to provide the ideas, capital, and leadership to transform the properties into economically productive assets.

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Knowledge Park Aims to Bring More Jobs

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Knowledge Park is looking for developers to build projects such as the redevelopment of the Bleachery property.

Rock Hill wants the private sector to step up in the development of the Knowledge Park area of the city.

Planners have invited 70 developers to submit their ideas on how 18 properties in town could best be redeveloped. It’s called a “request for qualifications” and the deadline for ideas sites and properties is April 8. The RFQ went out on Feb. 8.

All of the sites are in the newly named Knowledge Park area of Rock Hill, a one-square-mile chunk of property in and around downtown. Rock Hill planners have designed the area as where the city could draw 21st century jobs that are based on knowledge and skills rather than mechanical production.

“This is the new business park,” says Stephen Turner, director of the Rock Hill economic and urban development department. Downtown is already the site of the heaviest concentration of jobs in York County, Turner says. Daily 5,500 residents report to work within the Knowledge Park area.

Knowledge Park includes the Bleachery area, also called the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing site. Planners would like to see it rebuilt into a mixed-use site that would take advantage of nearby Winthrop University.

Planners have brought together 22 business local businesspersons who have a stake in the Knowledge Park area or hope to contribute.

One member, Lee Gardner, chief executive of Family Trust Federal Credit Union, says the function of the group is to be “a choral ensemble to sing the mission of Knowledge Park.” His credit union is building a $7 million headquarters and operations in the area that’s expected to be occupied in late 2014.

Ken Elkins – Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal


70 Developers for Knowledge Park Project

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The public-private partnership to develop the area between downtown Rock Hill and Winthrop University into a Knowledge Park is moving along full speed ahead.

Requests for qualifications have been sent and Rock Hill Economic Development Director Stephen Turner says they  were sent to developers the Economic Development Corporation has come to know over the past two years.

Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Company President Fred Faircloth, who is a member of the Knowledge Park Leadership Group, says this effort is different than typical mixed-use development projects.

Family Trust Federal Credit Union president and Chief Executive Officer Lee Gardner is building a headquarters in the park.  Gardner says part of his role is involvement.

The deadline for submitting requests for qualifications is April 8th.

The Knowledge Park Leadership Group will review those Requests for Qualifications.

By Mike Crowder- WRHI Radio 1340 AM


Knowledge Park Properties Added to National Register

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The Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Company, in Rock Hill, SC, was listed in the National Register on February 5, 2013. This complex in downtown Rock Hill includes six historic buildings and four historic structures. These include the Power House, Reservoir, two brick chimneys, Bleachery Water Treatment Plant (one building and one structure), Warehouse Building, Springs Distribution Center (two  buildings), and the Lowenstein Building.

The complex is significant for its association with the development of the textile industry in Rock Hill from 1929 to 1962. Starting with 400 employees, the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Company, often locally referred to simply as “the Bleachery,” employed 4,800 at its peak in 1965. Over the years, the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Company was expanded and altered as was common with twentieth-century textile mills to adapt to changes and innovations in the technology of manufacturing, processing, and finishing textile goods.