(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).The company-logo emblazoned smokestacks of …
(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).
The company-logo emblazoned smokestacks of Rock Hill’s shuttered textile plant, so closely resembles those at Cleveland’s Old Woolen Mill that Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks described a video that touted the South Carolina city’s downtown revitalization plan as “eery.”
The video was shown publicly for the first time last week during a presentation of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Master Plan to the Cleveland City Council. During the presentation, Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas discussed case studies of cities where similar downtown redevelopment initiatives have been launched.
Rock Hill, a gathering of low-slung building, is also adjacent to a university with a student population slightly larger than Cleveland’s own Lee University.
The city's vacant mill, also known as the Bleachery, closed in 1998 after operating for almost 70 years, eventually becoming dilapidated and catching fire several times.
But the nearly 24-acre site is enjoying a second life as part of the city’s effort to revitalize its downtown by, according to a promotional video, connecting its downtown and textile corridor to its public university in what city planners call a marrying of a “contemporary sensibility with an homage to the city’s past.”
The site now has a new name — University Center — and is the setting for a $230 million venture, where a hotel, residential homes and restaurants are planned.
One of the first projects at the site, a 170,000-square-foot sports complex, is slated to open next month, according to Rock Hill City Manager David Vehaun.
While Rock Hill still has a long way to go in its revitalization initiative, Vehaun said progress made so far has been a success.
“We wanted to transform the old textile corridor,” Vehaun told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “We had an abandoned mill known as the Bleachery, which was one of the worst sites. It has caught fire three times.”
He said the city purchased the site, later razing some of the structures to make way for University Center, which, according to the city, is a a walkable, multi-faceted district of Rock Hill that will build a modern economy, and reinvent the original heart of Rock Hill.”
Vehaun said the soon-to-be-opened sports complex will feature 10 basketball courts and 17 volleyball courts, concession facilities, locker rooms and training rooms.
The project was financed by a $21.3 million economic development bond.
According to Fivas, city planners in Rock Hill believe the center will bring in an additional $10 million per year in sports tourism revenues to the city.
Cleveland is also seeking to construct a sports complex downtown, with the hopes of positioning the city as a sports tourism center.
Another city, Kannapolis, N.C., is also undergoing a transformation after it lost more than 4,000 jobs when its textile mill closed in 2003. It eventually purchased the site, as well as other downtown properties, for $9 million in 2015.
According to the city’s revitalization website, Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant said it was a necessary investment for the future of the city.
“While this is a significant investment for Kannapolis, City Council has concluded this is an opportunity we must make to ensure the long-term economic vitality of our downtown core and entire city,” Hinnant said. "We believe our strategic plan for revitalization will pay huge dividends for the entire city’s economic future.”
Today, it is developing the district to include apartments, a hotel, restaurants and retail space through a mix of public and private partnerships. A development company is currently investing up to $61 million in the project, which is dubbed VIDA.
The project broke ground in March. The first phase will include 275 residential units, 19,000 square feet of retail space, as well as 34,000 square feet of renovated retail space in an existing block, Fivas said. In addition, he pointed out Kannapolis will “invest $12 million for a parking deck, which will be used by the public as well as VIDA residents.
The city also plans to construct a baseball park, which is expected to open next year. In fall, a craft brewery will be the first business to open in the revitalized downtown.
According to its master plan, the city is “leveraging public dollars to maximize private investment that improves the quality of life for Kannapolis citizens.” As a result, “for every $1 of public money invested, [the city] expects $3.40 of private investment.”
Total public investment will reach approximately $111 million through “new private development taxes and revenues,” generating up to some $374 million in private investment. In addition, the city is also seeking grants and private funding.
Like Cleveland, Kannapolis is seeking to attract young residents to its city.
Developer Peter Flotz said during an appearance on WFAE's television program, "Charlotte Talks," that millennials usually "pioneer" redeveloped downtown areas.
“We're going to try to attract the millennial market downtown, because those are the customers for entertainment uses and restaurant uses and the like. They're the first sort of pioneers, usually, in a redeveloped downtown,” Flotz said.
The Cleveland Daily Banner will provide additional coverage of the city's downtown revitalization plan as information becomes available.
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