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Rock Hill bets big on building

(Article by Ken Elkins, Charlotte Business Journal )

A nearly $5 million city investment will help launch spec project that could net $270 million in new development.

This fall, as the 58,000 or so commuters motor north along Interstate 77 in York County in their almost daily, hair-pulling ritual of seeking a paycheck in Charlotte, they will be teased with an alternative.

“You could have finished your coffee,” the billboard will read.

At the workday’s end, the underlying theme is the same but the message will be a little different: “You could be home by now,” the billboard will say. That billboard will show a puppy longingly looking for its owner.

Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols says the billboard campaign goes to the heart of the way he’s long felt about the commuting patterns from York County and Rock Hill. “We need to keep the younger population in our area.”

Now Rock Hill is partnering with Scannell Properties, an Indianapolis developer that’s relatively new to Charlotte, to bring speculative multitenant industrial buildings to Rock Hill.

It’s another step in the city’s effort to diversify its economy, joining the commitment to development of Knowledge Park near Winthrop University that is designed to attract knowledge-based jobs.

The partnership between the city and Scannell Properties will replenish Rock Hill’s supply of industrial shell space. The project, Legacy West, a business park on the southeastern side of town off Interstate 77, includes two speculative buildings, one totaling 430,000 square feet.

Rick Norwood, Rock Hill’s director of industrial recruitment, says the deal came along at the perfect time for the city. “We’re coming close to running out of industrial space,” he says. The city’s five industrial parks are virtually full.

Since most expanding and relocating manufacturers and distributors prefer ready-to-complete buildings offered to them, Legacy West should give Rock Hill an advantage over competitors in the region and beyond, Norwood says.

Coupled with a much larger Legacy East project, the two sites, which are across Springdale Road from each other, could bring almost $270 million in investment and as many as 1,850 jobs to Rock Hill.

Site work is ongoing at Legacy West, with construction of the first building starting later this year. In 2017, work could start on Legacy East, planners say.

Industrial space needed

Rock Hill has spent about $3.6 million to buy 100 acres for Legacy West, at the corner of U.S. Highway 21 and Springdale Road, in preparation for the first of two industrial parks. The city is also spending about $1.2 million for site preparation and infrastructure there.

Scannell Properties is buying two parcels with plans for that 430,000-square-foot building and another 126,000-square-foot shell building.

The larger building, to be erected on 31 acres, can be divided into 100,000-square-foot increments. It will lease in the mid-$4 per-square-foot range. The segments would be suitable for distribution, flex centers or even some light manufacturing and assembly.

There’s room for 25,000-square-foot leases in the smaller 126,000-square-foot building, which quotes rates in the high $4-per-square-foot range. That structure is suited for cross-loading distribution operations and possibly some equipment assembly, says Bill Linville, partner with Scannell Properties.

David Swenson, director of the York County Economic Development Board, says additional distribution and industrial space is exactly what the county wants. “It fills a need,” he says.

The county is working to set aside additional sites to ensure housing development doesn’t displace prospective industrial land in the county. For example, the Spratt site in Fort Mill along Spratt Street and Brickyard Road at the end of Fort Mill Parkway was originally considered for industrial uses. “He chose to go in a different direction,” Swenson says.

Last week, Fort Mill Town Council gave tentative approval for a mixed-use project on the Spratt land that could bring up to 2,560 homes and 350,000 square feet of commercial space to the 700-acre site.

None of the land has been set aside for industrial.

Echols says the city has had “some great successes” with public-private collaborations in the past.

“What we try to do on the public side is to set the table so the private sector can step forward,” he says. The city is collaborating with the developers of Riverwalk and has bought the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing site as its contribution to the project, which is now known as University Center.

The city also plans to keep a portion of Legacy West, where it may build a small shell building of its own.

Rock Hill and York County have built and sold several smaller-scale speculative buildings. For example, in 2014 the city started a $2.6 million, 40,000-square-foot shell building in Waterford Business Park. By early 2016, that building was leased and upfitted by Oerlikon Balzers Coatings USA Inc., which moved from another Rock Hill location.

York County and the Tuttle Co. built another 40,000-square-foot shell building in Antrim Business Park, on Galleria Boulevard near the Legacy sites. German automotive adhesive manufacturer Coroplast has since bought the building for its $12 million U.S. operations that’s expected to employ 150.

And last month, Catawba Enterprises, a freight-forwarding company, leased a 50,400-square-foot building in Fort Mill called Carolina Place. That spec building had recently been completed in a joint venture among York County, Beacon Partners, York Electric Cooperative Inc. and Santee Cooper.

First news of industrial site

News of Scannell Properties’ interest in Rock Hill first surfaced in October at the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. planning retreat.

Linville, the partner with Scannell Properties, says the fact that Rock Hill plans to buy both of the Legacy sites and then resell them to Scannell makes the deal possible. “We really needed a funding source for the land,” Linville said. “Were it not for the city’s interest, we probably would not have been able to get this financed.”

Norwood says the city pieced together several partners for the deal. At Legacy West, Santee Cooper, the S.C.-owned electric utility whose customers are primarily in eastern South Carolina, will provide redundant power. Along with that business, the park partners are competing for a Santee Cooper grant, which is expected to be larger than $1 million.

“It’s been a team effort, like most economic-development efforts are,” Norwood says.

Avison Young in Charlotte will market the Legacy West space. Chris Skibinski, a rainmaker for the local Avison Young office, is known in the Charlotte area as an industrial leasing agent who brought Amazon to Concord. He helps assemble industrial sites, works with developers to add larger buildings in new and existing parks and then finds tenants.

Building bigger presence

Skibinski showed the land that eventually became the Legacy projects to Scannell. The Legacy space could bring in another tenant like Amazon, which during its busy season employs 2,000 in the Concord distribution center, Skibinski says.

“The location is superior in the market for its access to I-77,” he says. Drivers have three interchanges nearby that could be used to access I-77. Next door is a 1.4 million-square-foot Ross Stores distribution center.

And the Port of Charleston is three hours away, Skibinski notes.

Scannell has four other projects in the Carolinas, including the Wilkinson Commerce Center in Charlotte. That’s an 84-acre, five-building site in west Charlotte just outside Interstate 485 that will contain about 450,000 square feet.

Legacy East has room for 11 buildings. Those buildings could contain 1,400 jobs and 2.8 million square feet of space.

The I-77 interchange, Exit 77, and surrounding area is becoming known for its potential for distribution centers. One exit north — at Exit 79 — on I-77 is Exel Inc.’s 897,000-square-foot Energizer Holdings Inc. warehouse.

“We’re already had inquiries on Legacy East and that is still in the planning stages,” Norwood says. “We’ll fill those (buildings) up sooner rather than later.”

Ken Elkins covers manufacturing, international business and economic development for the Charlotte Business Journal. Original article Here. 

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