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Streetcar best way to link Winthrop and Downtown

A streetcar line between Winthrop University and downtown Rock Hill is essential to developing the Knowledge Park, says developer Sora-Phelps.

A streetcar line means higher land values, increased taxes and the chance for federal funds for the project, said Tim Elliott of Sora Development.

Without a linkage between the university and downtown, Knowledge Park will be another industrial park with possibly some apartments, not the 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurant, office and residential space Sora-Phelps unveiled about two years ago, Elliott said.

Elliott’s comments came as the Knowledge Park Leadership Group, local business leaders who are advocating for the project, met Wednesday to discuss what will be its primary focus for the remainder of the year – what is the best transportation option for the park. The group hopes to make a recommendation to the Rock Hill City Council by the end of the year.

The Knowledge Park Leadership Group, city staff and Sora-Phelps – a partnership between Sora Development of Towson, Md., and Phelps Development of Greeley, Colo. – agree that the 23-acre Bleachery site must be connected to Winthrop University and downtown. Without the connection it is an isolated site, they say.

Until the leadership group’s March meeting a streetcar line was the proposed linkage. At that meeting the leadership group decided to study all alternatives, including a streetcar, electric buses or a people mover.

Wednesday’s meeting was to set the criteria for evaluating the transportation alternatives. Much of the focus, though, was on the benefits of a permanent rail line and the need for Winthrop University to embrace the project.

Stephen Turner, the city’s director of economic development, said the purpose of the transportation linkage between the university and downtown is to spur development of the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, also known as the Bleachery.

“This is not meant to meet transit needs; it’s not about moving people,” Turner said.

Turner said the linkage would have to stand on its own financially and show that it enhances the city’s economic development efforts. Property owners benefiting from the linkage would contribute to its operations through a special tax district.

Initial construction funds would be generated, in part, from tax incremental financing, or TIF, dollars. By using a TIF, increased tax revenue generated by development could be used to fund more public improvements at the site.

The City Council wants to extend the time frame for the existing special tax district that includes the Bleachery site. The York County Council and the Rock Hill school board must approve the extension because the county and school district each receives tax revenue from the properties. The school board has approved the extension. The County Council is negotiating with the city on the extension. A first reading of the extension is on the agenda for Monday’s County Council meeting.

Streetcar benefits

James Brown, of HDR of Charlotte, said that a streetcar line can amplify, focus and accelerate development, but it doesn’t create initial economic opportunities.

Several years ago, HDR did a streetcar feasibility study for the city. It is updating that study with more specific information on what’s planned for the Bleachery site, as well as information on cities which have tried a streetcar line as an economic development tool.

Lee Gardner, CEO and president of Family Trust Federal Credit Union, said the long-term vision for the streetcar should include a system that links the city’s major destinations such as Piedmont Medical Center, York Technical College, Clinton College and retail centers stretching from Newport to the Interstate 77 corridor.

John Barnes Jr. of Comporium, and David Stringer of the Insignia Group of Rock Hill, said the city could consider starting with a electric bus to link Winthrop and downtown, to gauge interest in the idea.

Having Winthrop University as a major player in transportation and Knowledge Park development was also discussed. Turner said the university needs to understand how the streetcar would benefit it, how it could affect student enrollment, or create more revenue opportunities.

Turner said having Winthrop participate in a “meaningful way” in the operation of a transportation system is essential.

Kathy Bigham, chairwoman of the Winthrop Board of Trustees, said the board’s understanding of Knowledge Park is on the agenda for Friday’s board retreat. Longer term, Bigham said that faculty, staff and students will play a “big role” in determining the university’s role in Knowledge Park.

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Zipstream Goes Live

Zipstream Gigabit Internet Service Goes Live in Rock Hill. Technology Incubator, the Hive Enjoy Comporium's Super Fast Internet Speed.

ROCK HILL, S.C. - ( June 12, 2014 ) - Awash in the glow of blue and green flood lights and a giant projected Zipstream logo on the side of the downtown building that houses the Technology Incubator and The Hive, Comporium's Zipstream officially lit up the first community in South Carolina to enjoy gigabit broadband service Friday.

"We are lighting up our ultra-fast Internet service via a state-of-the-art network as promised when we announced our plans several months ago," said Comporium's Matthew Dosch, executive vice president of customer operations and external affairs. "Because of the intensive use of broadband by the Technology Incubator and the Hive, they were the first to be connected, but our sales team is contacting downtown businesses right now to sign up any that are interested."

Comporium offers both upload and download speeds of 1 Gbps, which is nearly 85 times faster than the company's standard Internet service.

Businesses in a variety of high-tech and information technology fields are among the most suited for the robust data network.

Comporium is working with the City of Rock Hill and its master developer, Sora-Phelps, to attract high-tech businesses to Knowledge Park, the urban business park area from the heart of downtown to Winthrop University, which is part of the Knowledge Park Leadership Forum along with York Technical College.

York Tech announced earlier this week that it was hosting "Wired Hack," which is a special competitive event for computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers. The 24-hour Wired Hack kicked off at The Hive at 1 p.m. and took advantage of Zipstream as the teams fire up their projects.

Opened in January of 2011, the Hive functions as a community collaboration led by York Technical College. The collaboration has so far also included Winthrop University, the City of Rock Hill, Comporium, RevenFlo, and a list of other businesses and organizations who have served as both training providers and clients.

"Technological advancements like this (Zipstream) contribute greatly to the ongoing economic development taking place in the Rock Hill area. This not only keeps our students competitive, it also makes Rock Hill an attractive location for the high-tech job industry," said York Tech President Dr. Greg Rutherford.

James Thomas, the department chair for Information Technology at York Tech, oversees the Hive's activities and the planned hackathon event.

"The drastically increased speed will allow our students at the Hive to be dramatically more productive," said Thomas. "The kind of Web Application Design and Development we do there depends greatly on Internet speed."

The Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park shares the building with the Hive and is designed to support the development and formation of technology companies in Rock Hill. Led by the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation (RHEDC), the City of Rock Hill, Winthrop University and York Technical College, the Technology Incubator operates in association with the Clemson University Technology Villages program. The technology incubator program combines hands-on consulting support, resource identification, educational and technical assistance to improve an entrepreneur's prospects for success and create new knowledge worker jobs.

The City of Rock Hill's David Warner, director of the Technology Incubator (TI), said, "For us, Zipstream is a critical tool in recruiting new technology startups into the TI Center. In attracting entrepreneurs to Rock Hill, Zipstream will provide a clear competitive advantage over other communities in our region and beyond.

"Once companies are in our center, the availability of Zipstream service will allow them to perform research, download large data files, transfer information and communicate much, much faster," Warner added. "Ultimately, through Zipstream, we will be able to boost the speed of development and launching of our technology companies, fueling the ‘entrepreneurial engine' of economic development."

About Comporium Comporium makes life easier for its residential and commercial customers to access a broad range of communications services, including local telephone, long distance, wireless, cable TV, Internet, security, and media services. Please visit www.comporium.com for more information.

Roots and Recall

Roots and Recall is a treasure trove of history and genealogy, it is truly a feast for the eyes. Magazine-like, it provides access to thousands of local images and information on historic properties. It is a wonderful trip into the past during which time the user will be fascinated for hours. 

The mobility of modern life has undermined the ability to share family stories, yet the desire to record and preserve community, genealogical and family ties remains strong. Roots and Recall recognizes that technology offers the means to reverse this trend. By sharing our recollections, images, and stories, we can help preserve a place in time for each community while building family history & genealogy pages. Preserve your family heritage through sharing as have thousands of monthly users who enjoy Roots and Recall.

Click HERE to visit Roots & Recall.

Old Town Market Hall, Special Event Venue, Now Open

Old Town Market Hall, Special Event Venue, Now Open

Old Town Market Hall, the new event venue in the heart of Old Town is ideal for hosting parties, wedding receptions, reunions, meetings, concerts, art shows, and more. Owned by Main 7 LLC, and managed by Rinehart Property Management, the building at 121 Caldwell Street has been totally renovated by way of a partnership with the City of Rock Hill. The building that was once known as the Dixie Home Store of Rock Hill, and that later housed a dry cleaner and shoe repair now has a new purpose. The Old Town Market Hall is a venue designed to bring more events to the heart of the community.

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Major Downtown Rock Hill Construction Projects Set for Groundbreaking

Major Downtown Rock Hill Construction Projects Set for Groundbreaking

The City of Rock Hill’s Mayor Doug Echols and Comporium’s President and Chief Executive Officer Bryant Barnes jointly announced downtown construction projects in the area known as “Old Town East” that anchors what the city officials describe as Knowledge Park.

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