2850 Cherry Rd , Rock Hill, South Carolina

1. Project Overview

Goal of the project: The overall goal of the project was to transform a former industrial complex and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Treatment, Storage, and Disposal (TSD) facility into a new mixed use, residential, commercial, and industrial complex. The new Riverwalk development would help catalyze economic redevelopment opportunities in the entire region, while incorporating the natural beauty and surroundings of the adjoining Catawba River. Furthermore, each project stakeholder had individual goals within that overarching goal:

  • The Assured Group, to address an estimated $45,000,000 environmental legacy and develop a community distinguished by over three miles of river waterfront and a planned mixed use development consisting of authentic housing, shopping, entertainment, office, and schools;
  • City of Rock Hill, to catalyze redevelopment of the former industrial complex that once provided 2,500 jobs to the community for over 50 years, and mitigate the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs and loss of tax base; and
  • State of South Carolina regulatory agency and U.S. EPA, to successfully support the redevelopment by providing a cooperative and open dialogue to address the environmental legacy economically and quickly, in order to support the successful (job creation, economic activity and taxes) and protective (mitigation of human health and environmental risks) redevelopment of the brownfield site.

The development also is part of the City of Rock Hill and the State of South Carolina's ongoing commitment to return former textile sites - a large part of the state's industrial past - to productive new uses. New development at the site includes the construction of the Piedmont Medical Center Trail River that links with the Carolina Thread Trail, and construction of the Giordana Velodrome, part of the Rock Hill Outdoor Center, a 250-acre park at the Riverwalk. The Velodrome, endorsed by USA Cycling, hosts national and UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for sports cycling which oversees international competitive cycling events). In addition, a $45,000,000, one million square-foot distribution warehouse is being constructed by Excel Industries; multiple new subdivisions have been constructed; and a 500-home, new urbanism, residential neighborhood development is under construction. Last year, the Riverwalk and Rock Hill Outdoor Center helped Rock Hill become one of six cities named a 'Showcase City' by the National League of Cities.

Without the innovative and cost-effective approaches to cleanup at the Riverwalk site, which made the economics of this Brownfield development work, turning what was once a cost-prohibitive brownfield project into a successful redevelopment project likely would have not happened.

Location of the site: City of Rock Hill, South Carolina

Approximate size of the site (in acres): 1,000 acres

Former use of the site: The property was owned by Celanese Corporation of America, which operated the largest cellulose acetate manufacturing facility in the United States from 1948 to 2005. In addition to cellulose acetate (a synthetic fiber widely used in the textile industry), Celanese also manufactured bulk chemicals including methanol and formaldehyde, and used large amounts of acetone and benzene to reuse the acetic acid used in the manufacturing process. The facility was self-sufficient and included a power plant, water filtration plant, raw water intake, wastewater treatment plant and landfills, and, at one point, the 2.5 million square-foot facility employed over 2,500 employees. 

Over 57 years of operation resulted in several environmental legacies, some of which were regulated under US EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). With demolition and cleanup estimates exceeding $45,000,000 and the cost of addressing the environmental legacy issues prevented the plant from being competitive, Celanese decided to sell the facility.

In October of 2005, the Assured Group of Companies purchased the plant and property and indemnified Celanese for all on and offsite and known and unknown environmental liability. The Assured Group's goal for the site was to create sustainable redevelopment.

Actual end use of the site: The site is now home to several subdivisions with homes by residential developers including Saussy Burbank, Evans Coghill, and Chesmore Homes. Wise Living is also developing 300 high-end apartments along the Catawba River. The Giordana Velodrome hosted the 2012 US Cycling Championships. A YMCA is being constructed to overlook the Giordana Velodrome. and Excel is breaking ground for a 1,000,000 square foot distribution center. Physicians Choice Laboratory is opening a 100,000 square-foot facility providing 360 high-paying jobs. The Brakefield Event Center provides wedding receptions and other communal events along the Catawba River and the Riverwalk Trail. The trail, a 2.5 mile corridor along the Catawba River, provides hiking and biking opportunities for residents and connects to numerous mountain bike trails within the development. The former TSD post closure units are being developed into baseball and soccer fields that adjoin the residential developments.

Date the project was completed: Remediation of the facility, not including the RCRA post closure units, was completed in May 2009. This portion of the facility participated in the South Carolina Voluntary Closure Program (VCP) obtaining closure on $45,000,000 of environmental issues - for less than $3,000,000. SME and the Assured Group were able to reduce the RCRA TSD footprint from 1,000 acres to 43 acres through a cooperative effort with the South Carolina Department of Environmental Health and Control (DHEC) and address the 21 Solid Waste Management Units and four Areas of Concern through the VCP. The remaining work on the 43- acre post closure unit is underway, at an estimated cost of less than $500,000.

Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc.,
43980 Plymouth Oaks Blvd., Plymouth, Michigan

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