County Council vote gives $1 billion County Square redevelopment go-ahead

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Rendering by Foster + Partners

Greenville County Council members on Tuesday night gave final approval to a deal with Atlanta’s RocaPoint Partners to redevelop County Square.

The Greenville Journal was the first to report that Greenville County chose developers RocaPoint Partners/The Georgetown Company, architects Foster + Partners and Wakefield Beasley & Associates, and commercial real estate firm KDS Commercial Properties for a billion-dollar transformation of County Square into a new mixed-use development that includes a new 250,000-square-foot county office building.

The final vote was unanimous with no discussion. A public hearing held before the vote only had one speaker — pastor Clarence Thornton, who said poor people and the middle class would be left out and it could contribute to gentrification, which is already a problem near downtown.

County officials have said it will take between seven and 10 years to build out the redevelopment, which they said would generate an additional $22.5 million in property tax revenue for the county and the City of Greenville.

Since the Journal’s original story, additional details about the redevelopment and its financing were released:

•The new county office building will occupy 4 acres. Parks and open space will take up 3.74 acres. New roads will cover 10.16 acres. That leaves 22.7 acres of buildable land.

•The proposal calls for 1,125 units of multifamily housing, 450,000 square feet of retail space, 650,000 square feet of office space, and 350 hotel rooms. That mix may change depending on market demand.

•The development’s maximum building height is 10 stories.

•Family Court would have to relocate during the first phase of the project to allow construction of the new county office and parking.

•The new planned development zoning the county will seek calls for a floor area ratio of up to 3.5. The floor area ratio is the ratio of a building’s gross floor area to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

•The county is considering leasing the 1,000-space parking facility, so the space is taxable. If the county owns the parking facility, the land does not generate property taxes.

•A portion of President Street will be abandoned, and University Ridge will be relocated and connected to an upgraded Thruston Street.

The Council’s approval directs county representatives to negotiate the terms of the deal and set up a University Ridge Public Facilities Corporation to “accept, buy, sell, own, hold, lease, develop, operate, mortgage, insure, pledge, assign, transfer, or otherwise receive or dispose of real and personal property in conjunction with the redevelopment.” The county will transfer property to the PFC, which is managed by the chairman and finance committee chairman of Greenville County Council and the county administrator, which will then release that property as deals are made.

This isn’t the first time the county has used a public facilities corporation to facilitate capital projects. PFCs, which are controlled by the county, were used for the Greenville County Detention Center, the courthouse, and the Matrix Business Park, which is now called Augusta Grove. One was used to help finance the University Center as well.

Currently, County Square is appraised at $32 million, County Administrator Joe Kernell said. Instead of selling, the county decided to partner with a developer who could drive up the value of the property, he said, essentially paying for the county’s facility.

The County Square property will be a part of a multicounty industrial park, which is a tool often used for economic development projects, and the county will collect all of the property tax revenue generated from the development for up to 20 years to pay for infrastructure there, such as grading; water, sewer, and stormwater lines; new roads and sidewalks; park space and trails; and curbing and lighting. The city and school district will receive their share of property taxes after the infrastructure is paid for.

“Nobody is losing anything, because right now, the property generates no tax revenue,” Kernell said.

Under the agreement, from now until 2021, the county would pay for predevelopment and construction costs of the county office building, estimated to be between $50 million and $70 million.

The county would pay 65 percent of land predevelopment costs for items such as zoning, design, permits, marketing, presales, and selection of users. The developers would pay the remaining 35 percent. Land predevelopment costs are estimated to be between $5 million and $6 million.

RocaPoint would fully fund commercial predevelopment such as design, preleasing, and marketing, estimated to be between $5 million and $6 million.

From 2020 to 2026, the county and developer have a revenue target of $95 million to $105 million from land development and sales. The county will get the first $40 million. After that, the county’s share decreases for each $20 million increment. Any revenue over $100 million is split 50-50.

The agreement calls for RocaPoint to invest at least $200 million of its own money. The developer could potentially make $35 million from the deal.

Kernell said if the county sold the land today for $30 million and built a new county office building and paid to relocate the departments being moved off the property, it would have to issue bonds that would cost $3 million per year for 20 years.

Under the agreement with RocaPoint, if no land were sold at all, the new county office building and relocation would carry an annual debt service of $5 million for 20 years. If land sales totaled $50 million, annual debt service would be nearly $1.47 million. If land sales total $70 million, it would cover the cost of the new building.

Taxes would not be raised to pay for the building, county officials said.

After County Council approves the deal, the next step would be to create the actual master plan for the development. The next step would be to get the property rezoned to a new planned development district. County Square is not in the central business district, so the development won’t have to get approval from the city’s Design Review Board.

It will take up to 18 months before construction of the new county building begins.


May 16: This post has been updated to reflect the Greenville County Council giving final approval to the agreement.

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