Lancaster County begins just south of the red-hot Ballantyne development in south Charlotte and ends deep in rural South Carolina.
This is a place of great contrasts – of historic gold mines, ancient Indian settlements and small textile towns on one hand and budding business parks, bedroom communities and Charlotte commuters on the other.
The arrival of several thousand new residents in the last decade is bringing rapid change, particularly in the county’s northern “neck” near Charlotte.
The development of new roads, including the I-485 outerbelt, and the widening of S.C. 160 to four lanes is encouraging the growth. So are Lancaster county officials. When work began a decade ago on Ballantyne, Lancaster leaders rezoned land and installed utilities that would welcome growth here, too.
Their foresight paid off with Bailes Ridge, four miles south of Ballantyne on S.C. 160. The 460-acre mixed-use development eventually will have a 200-acre corporate campus, a neighborhood park, and shops and services around a village center.
Developers are attracted to Lancaster County’s less expensive cost of land and lower taxes, which has resulted in the boom in corporate office projects here, particularly along S.C. 160.
Crosland, one of Charlotte’s biggest developers, also saw the potential of northern Lancaster County and in 2001 began 521 Corporate Center, a 67-acre office park on U.S. 521 that eventually will employ thousands of white-collar workers.
Clearly, settlers from the north are rewriting the Lancaster County story – again.
The first time occurred in the mid-1700s. Scots-Irish settlers spilling out of Pennsylvania and Virginia found fertile places to build new homes in Lancaster County. The county’s first settlement was called the Waxhaws, named for an Indian tribe.
Gold fever struck first in nearby Cabarrus County, but Lancaster County produced its own wealth during America’s first true gold rush. The Haile Gold Mine near Kershaw opened around 1830 and became the most productive gold mine east of the Mississippi before closing for good during World War II.
Lancaster County’s next wealth came from textiles, starting in the early 1900s. Leroy Springs founded Springs Industries in 1895 and by 1919 owned five textile mills in South Carolina. Springs Industries has maintained its success and is now the county’s largest employer.
Sun City Carolina Lakes in Indian Land is spread out over 1,200 acres with 10 lakes. The community features an 18-hole golf course as well as a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse with a fitness center, pool and indoor track. Single-family homes and villas range from around $170,000 to $343,000.
Two other new subdivisions, Legacy Park and BridgeHampton, eventually will be home for about 3,000 people. Realtors say that homebuyers are drawn by the community schools, low taxes and easy commute to south Charlotte. Legacy Park offers single-family homes from the $160s to $300,000 and features an indoor/outdoor recreation center, pool, tennis courts and fishing ponds.
With tree-lined streets and sidewalks, BridgeHampton features homes from the $400s to the $600s. The community offers a clubhouse with a fitness center, pools, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, and a playground.
In 2001, York Technical College, based in Rock Hill, opened the Kershaw-Heath Springs satellite campus in Lancaster County. The campus offers technology, business and general education courses for area residents.
The county’s rural setting and low cost of living within close proximity to Charlotte makes Lancaster County an appealing area for growth. Other features contributing to Lancaster County’s economic and residential growth are the constant upgrades to sewer, water and natural gas services to enhance citizens’ living and encourage future growth.
How should Lancaster County grow over the next decade? A recent survey of residents found that their top three priorities for a healthy community include good schools, strong families and economic growth.
Judging from the changes taking place near Charlotte, the county is well on its way to reaching those goals.