Rock Hill’s “College Town” area could see some changes next year at the intersection of Cherry Road and Charlotte Avenue if a commercial developer follows through with plans for an 8,000-square-foot building to include a drive-thru Starbucks, a national Mexican restaurant chain and retail shops.
Plans on file with the city of Rock Hill show Morgan Property Group of Charlotte proposes to build a two-restaurant and multi-tenant retail development. The new development, tentatively called “College Corners,” would displace an existing BP gas station, the Pub House bar, and Universal Financial Services, a personal finance office.
Morgan Property Group officials told The Herald on Wednesday that construction could begin early next year.
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Parts of the plan are pending approvals from city officials and Rock Hill’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Because the location is next to residential property, the developer needs special permission from the city to include a drive-thru speaker and pick-up window, as well as an outdoor patio seating area.
The proposal consists of five separate properties that would be combined to make a nearly one-acre development site. The land fronts Cherry Road – one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares – and is situated between Charlotte Avenue and College Avenue Extension, located within walking distance of Winthrop University and several other businesses.
This stretch of Cherry Road sees about 30,000 cars per day and has significant pedestrian traffic because of its proximity to the campus.
Trey Morgan with Morgan Property Group says his firm plans to design a commercial area that reflects the character of the surrounding Winthrop neighborhood. The company has done other work in Rock Hill, including redevelopment of the Walgreens site near the intersection of Heckle Boulevard and Herlong Avenue, and the redevelopment of a 7-11 gas station on Cherry Road, across from Winthrop’s campus.
Some neighbors close to the proposed redevelopment site have raised concerns about increased traffic
Morgan confirmed Wednesday that his firm is in talks with a national coffee retailer but could not comment on city records that show plans for a Starbucks. A national Mexican restaurant chain is eying the development, too, he said.
With two anchor restaurants, Morgan said, about 3,000 square feet would remain in the development for retail shops. It’s unclear whether that retail space will include any of the current businesses displaced by the development.
Owners of the BP gas station and Pub House could not be reached this week. Dennis Brooks, president of Universal Financial Services, says he intends to stay open in his current location as long as possible and then find a new place for his office in Rock Hill.
Other aspects of the proposed development include:
▪ An 8-foot-tall wall or fence-like structure to serve as a barrier between the commercial site and nearby homes on Charlotte Avenue and College Avenue Extension.
▪ The wall would help buffer sound from the drive-thru speaker which is proposed to sit about 40 feet away from the nearest home’s property line.
▪ Eliminating existing entry and exit points on Cherry Road in favor of traffic driveways to the site located on Charlotte Avenue and College Avenue Extension.
Some residents who live near the site have raised concerns about possible increased traffic on Charlotte Avenue and College Avenue Extension as a result of the development. City officials last month requested a traffic study in response to those concerns.
Pending requests related to development to be heard next month at City Hall
One neighbor, Nickie George, told The Herald this week he’s not opposed to commercial development in the area but worries a drive-thru Starbucks could worsen existing traffic issues on Charlotte Avenue – particularly close to the intersection with Cherry Road.
Already, he said, traffic backs up in the area during peak travel hours. Making a left turn toward Cherry Road from the proposed development site could prove difficult for drivers. George said that could mean more cars will make a right turn instead on Charlotte Avenue and use nearby residential streets – such as his, Milton Avenue – to cut through.
He enjoys his neighborhood, George said, because of the close proximity of shopping and restaurant options. But, the downside is “you have to put up with the traffic.”
Morgan Property Group previously gained approval from the Rock Hill Zoning Board of Appeals for some requested variances on the property to allow for the development. Officials say the development will be discussed again at next month’s board of appeals meeting.