It’s almost 8:30 a.m. Monday, and more than 50 cars sit in the parking lot of a grocery store that hasn’t opened in five months. Several of them filled with professionals, heaters still running. Then the shuttle arrives.
It’s a picture of what commercial growth can do to an area when it’s booming, and when it isn’t.
Across S.C. 160 West from Kingsley, Peachtree Plaza saw its main anchor, Bi-Lo, close in June. Another long-time traffic producer, Subway, isn’t in the center anymore as a new location opened on Clebourne Street. As for the anchor site, a new business isn’t close to replacing Bi-Lo, according to the property managers.
“We have no plans for it right now,” said Kerri Robusto with Clear Springs Development Group, a company involved both with Kingsley and Peachtree Plaza. “LPL is using it for overflow parking for their employees until their new parking is finished.”
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Robusto said using the parking lot for commercial growth across the street isn’t any indication of what the future might hold for Peachtree Plaza. There are “no real long-term plans for the site” where Bi-Lo used to be, so for now it seemed sensible to use the free parking if a neighboring business needed it, she said.
“That was just a matter of, it was available,” Robusto said. “It just worked out timing-wise.”
Nor, she said, is it an indication of parking or traffic concerns at Kingsley. Parking is being added at LPL now, and traffic along the highway between the sites isn’t new to Kingsley construction. In fact, Kingsley brought with it new turn lanes to aid traffic patterns.
“There’s always been quite a bit (of traffic) in that area,” Robusto said.
Mega-employers LPL Financial and Lash Group opened in Kingsley last year. Lash Group opened a five-story building for about 1,200 workers last year with plans to double the workforce by 2020. This spring, the company announced a new building and parking deck, at 1,200 spaces, to come. LPL Financial opened two buildings at 450,000 square feet, with estimates of 3,000 employees.
And Kingsley isn’t done. More acreage for potential future development — about 480 acres — sits behind the current construction than within in. Kingsley plans are so big, regional road planners with the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study have discussed at what point the site may warrant a new interchange off I-77.
At its most recent meeting, director David Hooper said RFATS has to keep an eye on Kingsley as it grows. Even among a service area including growth hotbeds Lake Wylie, Tega Cay and Indian Land along with Fort Mill and Rock Hill.
“That’s the major site for projected future growth,” Hooper said.
Whether folks are aware, Robusto understands Kingsley can reshape the commercial landscape of Fort Mill more than it has already.
“There’s a whole lot more to come,” she said. “We wouldn’t do it without the roads being in place.”
As for the former Bi-Lo site, it’s been rumor and speculation thus far when new businesses are mentioned. Robusto hears it, too.
“I hear every day something that’s going in there, which makes me laugh, because it isn’t,” she said. “I would know.”