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Cato project could result in $400 million investment in York County

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Don Worthington -
Mark Farris, York County's economic development director, speaks at Wednesday's chamber luncheon in Rock Hill.

ROCK HILL Development of the nearly 300 acres off Gold Hill Road that includes Knights Stadium could generate a $400 million investment, says York County economic development officials.

Fashion retailer Cato of Charlotte has purchased 265 acres of undeveloped land and has an agreement with York County to purchase the 32-acre stadium site in the Fort Mill area.

The company has been working with county officials on a mixed-use development plan that includes a $36 million Cato distribution center, 1 million square feet of office space, plus retail, residential, commercial and industrial space.

Mark Farris, York County’s economic development director, shared Cato’s proposed plans at Wednesday’s “power luncheon” of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. About 100 chamber members and their guests attended.

Farris said the county has been working with Cato for the past 18 months. The company originally was interested in 400,000 square feet for a new distribution center. When the company couldn’t find a site, Farris suggested the land adjacent to Knights Stadium which was for sale in federal bankruptcy court.

After buying 265 acres for about $7 million, Cato came back to York County, wanting to buy the 32-acre ball park site.

The county has agreed to sell the property to Cato for $844,160. The sale of the land will take place when the Charlotte Knights’ lease expires at the end of the year. Cato will demolish the stadium.

The Knights, a AAA team affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, will play the 2014 season in a new, $54 million ball park now under construction in downtown Charlotte. The season opener in the new park is April 11.

Farris said he has not estimated the property tax gain from development of the site, but said it would be “in the millions.”

Currently the Knights pays no property taxes.

The ball park was built by then team owner George Shinn for about $14 million. He built the stadium with the understanding the county would own it, Farris said. The stadium reverts to county control on Dec. 31.

Cato has discussed its development plans for the 300 acres with York County Council. The plans have not been approved by the county and are subject to change. Farris said the county will likely negotiate an agreement with Cato, specifying how the site would be developed.

Cato officials could not be reached for comment.

Farris also discussed development of two proposed business parks in the county, one behind the South Carolina Welcome Center on Interstate 77 and a second off Campbell Road, near Allison Creek in northern York County. The two business parks would add more than 300 acres for industrial development, Farris said.

While the Cato project and the two business parks will increase the business tax base in York County, Farris said there needs to be comprehensive tax reform in South Carolina.

He said the current system, which relies on business personal property taxes – among the highest in the nation – and the lowest residential taxes, is doomed to fail.

“It’s not a sustainable system to fund the education system we need to have to compete in a global economy,” he said. “We can’t be minimally adequate.”

Farris said comprehensive tax reform discussions need to happen in the Legislature in earnest and that Act 388, the law that moved the school funding burden from residential property owners and placed it on shoppers and business owners via a 1-cent sales tax, needs to be part of that conversation.

“There needs to be a balance in the tax structure,” Farris said. That balance, he said, could change from county to county depending on how developed a county is.

Don Worthington •  803 329-4066
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