Riverwalk Development Brings Economic Growth to Rock Hill

Based on the sight of the Celanese Acetate Filament Plant, Riverwalk is a community in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It features housing, dining, shopping and athletic opportunities. The plant is a major part of Rock Hill’s history and economy, employing as many as 2,300 people from the 1940s until it closed in 2005. In 2008, the Assured Group bought the land and initiated a cleanup operation. Shortly after, The Assured Group and The City of Rock Hill joined forces. Working together, 250 acres of land, worth over eight million dollars, was used to create various cycling and nature amenities.

Dave Williams, the developer of the community, explains the vision: “Riverwalk is a-thousand-and-eight acre, master plan mixed-use community, located on three miles of the Scenic Catawba River. The overall vision for the project was to create a sustainable, active outdoor lifestyle.”

The vision to create an outdoor lifestyle was accomplished. Riverwalk has walking and biking trails, athletic fields, and a canoe and kayak launch, among other amenities. It is also home to two world-class cycling facilities. This makes it a destination for many, not only from outside of the Carolinas, but from outside of the United States, as well. And, with the UCI BMX Championship happening in Rock Hill next year, the city expects major economic impacts.

The Mayor of Rock Hill, Doug Echols, explains further, “We will have 3,300 riders from 45 countries and probably 20 to 30 thousand visitors  from around the world, and that’s over a ten-day period, and we project the economic impact to be somewhere between 10 and 13 million dollars.”  

This, of course, was all part of the master plan. Rock Hill has a long history in using sports tourism for economic development. Mayor Echols explains, “Over the last ten years, we’ve done around 141 million dollars of direct economic impact with all of our sports venues, and just last year, it was right at 21 million.”

The mixed-use and recreational amenities in the community help Riverwalk compete with other locations in attracting new industrial and office development. Colby Mosier and Elliot Close, co-owners of the Pump House Restaurant, saw the opportunity in the Riverwalk Community themselves and bought the former Catawba River Pump House from Riverwalk to create a space for fine dining. Not ever being in the restaurant business before, Mosier saw this building as a unique opportunity to create a restaurant around the idea of an old-fashioned pump house. Since the remodeling, several employees who used to work at the Celanese plant have gone to The Pump House and can’t believe the changes.

While The Pump House was the first restaurant in the Riverwalk community, it won’t be the last. Other businesses and restaurants have already made plans to build in Riverwalk, and for business owners already developed in the area, that’s great news. Mosier explains, “All that just adds to the excitement. All of that’s good for us. It brings more people here. And all the events that Riverwalk has with the BMX track and the Velodrome, all of those things help us, and I think we help them because we give them opportunity.”

The new businesses and facilities in Riverwalk display only a portion of economic growth in the area. New residents also play a major part. John Taylor, the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director explains, “This community is a live, work, play community. There’ll be 750 single-family homes, there’ll be approximately 400 condos, and 500 apartments, so it will contribute to the tax base for Rock hill, too, which is very good.”

Corben Sharrah, a BMX athlete, explains the impression that Riverwalk left on him. He says, “There’s a lot of things to do in this community if you’re an active person, if you ride bikes, anything. It’s a great venue to race BMX and also a great city and stuff...to do whatever, really, you want.”