"This is, in my judgement, a very exciting day," City Manager Chris Story said as he opened his presentation of a proposed deal with Johnson Development Associates (JDA) for the largest economic development project in the city's history to Spartanburg City Council on Monday. First announced in May, the centerpiece of the transformational development will be a new Minor League Baseball stadium to serve as the future home of the current Down East Wood Ducks of Kinston, NC. The team is expected to be renamed in the move.
Far more than merely a baseball stadium development though, the $425 million development will cover a total of around four blocks of Downtown Spartanburg, bounded by W Henry St. to the south, W Main St. to the north, S Daniel Morgan Ave. and Spring St. to the east, and the CSX Railroad to the west. In addition to the 3,500-seat stadium, the development area will include 200,000 sq. ft. of office space, over 375 apartment units, a 150-room hotel, parking facilities to house at least 1,500 vehicles, and a large public plaza and event space. Construction on the project will take place in phases, with the stadium and first parking structure expected to be completed by spring of 2025 and subsequent phases to be completed over several years.
Under terms of the agreement, JDA will invest $305 million to construct multiple structures for the development’s office space and commercial component, a new 150-unit hotel, and three parking facilities. Public funding for the development will pay for the stadium and public infrastructure construction and comes in the form of $54,000,000 in state funding, $3.6 million in Downtown Partnership Committee set aside for downtown development, $1.8 million in Spartanburg County Accommodations Tax funding, and $58.6 million in City funding. The City intends to issue bonds to cover its portion, with repayment to be made using Spartanburg County Accommodations Tax funding, Downtown Partnership Committee funding, City Hospitality Tax funding, and lease payments and revenue from the stadium.
The City also agreed to transfer a number of parcels within the main project block to JDA immediately, as well as parcels bounded by S Spring St., S Daniel Morgan Ave, and W Broad St., and a parcel along S Daniel Morgan Ave adjacent to the Hampton Heights neighborhood at a later date.
Also included in the agreement is a restriction preventing the City from offering a higher ratio of incentives to any development for five years from the signing of the agreement and another restriction stating that no incentives at all can be offered to a hotel project in the downtown area for three years. Prior to the vote, several City Council members voiced concerns regarding the hotel restriction, questioning the wisdom of limiting potential competition during a time of unprecedented growth in Downtown Spartanburg.
Ultimately, the transformative, historic scale of investment included in the project was the deciding factor, with City Council approving the agreement 6-0. Council member Rob Rain, who is employed by JDA, recused himself from the vote.
The development agreement will require a second reading for final approval and will be on the agenda at City Council’s next meeting on October 9. For more from Monday’s City Council meeting, view the full video at this link.