For decades, the old industrial site between White Street and the railroad tracks has been called the Bleachery, even long after the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. and the former mill closed up shop.
On Monday, the space received its new name from developers hoping to give the 23-acre site in the heart of Rock Hill a new lease on life: University Center.
Unveiled at a “redevelopment preview” at the Family Trust Federal Credit Union on White Street – another component of the area’s redevelopment that opened last fall – the new name emphasizes the mixed-use development’s role as a bridge between Winthrop University on the other side of Stewart Avenue and the downtown business district across Dave Lyle Boulevard.
The new name is meant to stress the area’s ties to Winthrop, for which it will host student housing, but also “lifelong learners” who will live in age-restricted, senior-oriented housing at the same site and be integrated into the college community, said Tim Elliott, the managing member of Sidewalk Rock Hill, a partnership with Sora-Phelps Development that is overseeing development of the site.
“Baby boomers and the generations after are very interested in lifelong learning,” Elliott said. “There’s a reason the Discovery Channel and National Geographic are so hot on cable.”
Monday’s ceremony comes just a week after the Rock Hill City Council gave final approval to the master plan for the $200 million development. Construction will begin as early as next week, but a formal groundbreaking likely will wait until the fall, Elliott said.
Plans call for 234 apartments on the redeveloped site, plus a hotel, restaurants, shops and 228,000 square feet of office space in a renovated Lowenstein building – part of the original mill – that developers hope to fill with the high-tech “knowledge economy” jobs the development seeks to attract.
Dan Mahony, Winthrop University president, said developers approached him with the “University Center” name a few weeks prior to the unveiling, which the college president thinks will go well with the housing for 499 new Winthrop students, plus a 164,000-square-foot athletic facility that will be integrated into the campus.
“There are opportunities for joint facility usage,” Mahony said. “There’s a chance for our exercise science outreach to the community, where people can come in for an exercise assessment.”
Ken Halpin, recently named as Winthrop’s new athletic director, also attended Monday’s ceremony. He sees the advantages the new athletic facility will give the community on campus and off.
“One thing that struck me through the whole interview process is how much this is a sporting community,” Halpin said. “Whatever the level of involvement from the institution. It’s clearly a very exciting, valuable addition to the sporting element in the community.
A University Center rendering shows a pedestrian walkway near a performance stage, with an indoor recreation center in the background. Courtesy of Sidewalk Rock Hill