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City Council gives OK to Sora-Phelps as Master Developer of Knowledge Park

After more than two years of research, investigation and planning, Rock Hill City Council gave the final OK on a memorandum of understanding allowing Maryland-based Sora-Phelps take the reins on leading the Knowledge Park development efforts downtown.

The agreement approved last night follows a string of approvals from stakeholders in the project, including the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Winthrop University.

Monday’s decision by council was unanimous, with councilman Kevin Sutton absent from the meeting. Sutton was not immediately available for comment Monday night.

Tim Elliott, Director of Vision and Design for Sora-Phelps, said Monday that his company’s plan encompasses the needs and ideas by local developers who’ve already expressed interest.

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Sora-Phelps is a partnership between Sora Development Co. of Townsend, Md., and Phelps Development Corporation of Greenley, Colo.

The group is charged with developing a master plan for 100 acres of land including more than a dozen building encompassing 700,000 square feet of interior space.

Sora-Phelps beat out four other developers interested in the project. The company stood out among its competitors with a $300 million project that linked Rowan University with the nearby town of Glassboro, N.J.

Elliott estimates the Rock Hill project, in the end, will be twice the size of the Pennsylvania project and worth upwards of $700 million.

One thing unique about Sora-Phelps’ approach is the company makes a profit off real estate development — meaning that progress on the property is key to Sora-Phelps’ success.

Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols says this is a win-win for the city.

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The firm plans to open a Rock Hill office and start on its in-house research on the site while updating city council on a bi-monthly basis. Monday’s Memorandum of Understanding was a non-binding agreement; a more formal agreement will be signed by Sora Phelps and the city in 2014.

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