The Riverwalk development in Rock Hill is so big, so diverse and ambitious, that it’s hard to envision what it will look like when completed.
Homes vary from around $240,000 to $367,000 and parts might resemble Baxter, the huge mixed-use development in nearby Fort Mill. Or maybe Birkdale in Huntersville or Ballantyne in southeast Charlotte.
But it won’t be exactly like any of those communities, according to Alan Banks of Evans Coghill Homes. “This is unique,” he said.
For starters, there’s the Giordana Velodrome, the banked oval bicycle track. That turned heads. And a 2 1/2-mile-long park skirts a section of the free-flowing Catawba River that’s dramatically different from the Catawba lakes Charlotteans are familiar with.
Comparisons to Baxter are probably inevitable.
Still, Riverwalk is years – maybe decades – from completion, but the early sales of more than 20 homes have caught the notice of others in the industry. Chuck Graham of Newton Graham Consultants, who tracks the local market, said the Riverwalk sales are impressive. “Its location in Rock Hill and South Carolina is a plus … because of schools and taxes. The product is quite unique.”
While the long-planned project slowed down in the depths of the housing bust, Graham said he believes it’s regaining momentum. Especially impressive, he said, are the sales for a site that’s still largely bare.
Developer David Williams and both builders credit the town of Rock Hill for establishing strict appearance standards, from home exteriors to sidewalk materials.
Evans Coghill and Saussy Burbank, which are building the first homes in Riverwalk, built in Baxter. Jim Burbank of Saussy Burbank said his company’s success there prompted it to consider building in Riverwalk. “We’ve had a lot of luck, even during the worst of times, in northern York County,” he said.
Now Baxter is almost complete, and both builders are closing out their lots there.
Burbank said he was finally convinced to join Riverwalk when he visited the site. “The most attractive thing to me was the river,” he said. “It really is spectacular.”
Park and velodrome
Riverwalk occupies the site of a former Celanese plant, now demolished, that once employed 1,600.
The project covers 1,008 acres just south of U.S. 21, or Cherry Road, and west of the Catawba River.
It’s being developed by the Assured Group of Cincinnati in partnership with the city of Rock Hill. “Our company specializes in brownfield redevelopment,” said David Williams, Assured’s on-site executive. “We do the work ourselves … We don’t sub it out to the lowest bidder.”
Assured closed on the property in 2005. After years of cleanup and planning, it entered into an agreement with the city in 2009. The city agreed to provide up to $50 million for streets, utilities and other public amenities, paid for by special tax district revenue, and the developer donated 250 acres.
The riverfront park sees lots of activity. On a Monday morning, more than a dozen cars occupied the parking lot.
At the velodrome, a biker was making steady loops on the track and a couple of people were in the office signing up for track time.
A mountain-bike trail through the community is open. Plans call for another biking amenity, a competitive BMX track.
Long-term plans for Riverwalk call for some 400,000 square feet of commercial development on Cherry Road. A huge business park faces I-77. Mixed-use development – restaurants and the like – will occupy a spot down on the river.
Plans call for 750 single-family homes, 500 apartments and 250 townhouses. Evans Coghill and Saussy Burbank will build duplex townhouses for sale, in addition to their single-family houses. Williams said other builders will join the lineup for upcoming phases.
No waterfront homes
While some of the new homes have river views, there are no houses claiming the waterfront. “Nobody has direct water access,” Banks said. “Nobody owns the river. It’s open to everybody … because it’s a city park.”
The homes are set back from the river, and look across the park at the rocky sweep of the Catawba.
That’s different from what you might expect. And both builders have introduced new plans, unique to Riverwalk. This isn’t a streetscape you’ll see elsewhere.
The Saussy Burbank model is the four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath Savannah. It has sold, for $362,000, and the company is leasing it back, according to salesperson Molly McCrory.
High ceilings and 8-foot doors on the first floor add to the open, spacious feel. A stained shiplap wall in the master bedroom has been a hit with potential buyers, McCrory said.
Three pendant lights hang above the kitchen island. They don’t match – on purpose. It’s a hip, Gen Y touch, Burbank said.
The Savannah is Saussy Burbank’s largest plan, at 2,680 square feet. The smallest is 1,728 square feet.
Evans Coghill plans are a little larger, ranging from about 1,900 to 3,000 square feet.
The model offers 2,500 square feet and starts at $315,000. Again, 8-foot doors add a luxury touch. In the master bathroom, a large spa shower replaces the traditional tub and shower.
Evans Coghill built a similar shower in its recent HomeArama house at Baxter, and decided to include it at Riverwalk. “We’ve found that well over half our buyers say they don’t need the tub,” Banks said.
Evans Coghill has sold several houses. Saussy Burbank, whose lots were available earlier, has sold 20.
Both builders say they’ve been surprised by the diversity among buyers. They’re seeing not only young, active families, which they expected, but also older empty nesters.
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