The Rock Hill City Council will consider some new twists on an old challenge Monday: what to do with the Bleachery textile site.
Some of what the council is expected to hear at a work session are ideas it approved in 2003 with the Textile Corridor plan:
• Connect Winthrop University to downtown Rock Hill with a streetcar trolley.
• Reuse of existing mill buildings.
• New construction for office, retail and residential uses.
The newest idea for the Bleachery is Knowledge Park, an economic development strategy that focuses on attracting more jobs by recruiting high-tech companies.
Components of the park include a technology incubator, where start-up companies can get assistance in making an idea a marketable product; identifying up to 25 projects for developers to compete for; and the 1.5-mile trolley line between Winthrop University and downtown.
The strategy has been in the works for several years. The Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. and its partners have been looking for ways to create a community that attracts a creative class, people who want to live and work in an urban environment. Creating a high-tech environment is seen as one way to keep students from Winthrop and York Technical College from leaving Rock Hill and attract others to the city.
One of the goals is to increase the number of home-grown businesses, firms that have historically invested both money and time into the community.
Backers of the concept believe three critical components exist today in the corridor that were lacking almost a decade ago.
• The city now owns the 23-acre Rock Hill Printing & Finishing site, commonly called the Bleachery.
• The focus is on using the latest technology as a job creator.
• Most importantly, backers say, is that the advocates are not city staff, but business leaders who have an interest in its success.
Thats what many said was lacking in the 2003 plan.
There is more agreement, a more unified effort and that makes sense, said Robert Thompson, a member of the Textile Corridor Master Plan Advisory Committee and a Winthrop University trustee. Thompson was also the spokesman for Springs Industries, which closed the plant in 1998, ending 69 years of textile printing and finishing at the site. Springs owned the site for its final 13 years of operation.
Business leaders advocating the Knowledge Park economic development strategy are Bryant Barnes and John Barnes of Comporium; Jason Broadwater of Revenflo; Derick Close of Springs Creative; Bud Dark of Start Marketing; Fred Faircloth of Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling; Lee Gardner of Family Trust Federal Credit Union; Jim Hardin, a Rock Hill lawyer; retired city manager Joe Lanford; Greg Rutherford, president of York Technical College; Andy Shene, chairman of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp and vice president at First Citizens Bank; David Stringer of the Insignia Group; Gary Williams of Williams & Fudge; and Anthony DiGiorgio, Winthrop University president.
Group members have met several times and explained their support at the recent annual retreat of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp.
This is being done by entrepreneurs, people willing to take risks, Dark said. Government doesnt build towns.
City Council approval will be needed, however, as the city owns the property. The council may also be asked in the future to invest in public-private partnerships for various projects.
Gardner said, New signs, lamp posts, sidewalks, they are nice but they dont create jobs. Whats different is these are business leaders that are successful, have a vested interest.
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