THE SMOKESTACK RISES 100 FEET from this corner of Fort Mill, just off Interstate 77 and about eight miles south of the state line. It’s decorative only, a kind of cylindrical billboard in the middle of a warren of brick buildings and an amphitheater perched at the edge of a 10-acre lake. The project’s name, Kingsley, is spelled out in white block letters down the side of the smokestack, underneath the painted symbol of a cotton boll. On a warm afternoon in late August, the name announces itself to the traffic passing on U.S. Highway 21 as the percussion of nail guns and circular saws ‘lls the air. Two years ago, this was vacant property owned by one of South Carolina’s largest landowning families. Now it’s the toehold for what the Close family and the company it owns,
Clear Springs Development, imagines as an economic launchpad for Fort Mill and York County—a 660-acre blend of retail businesses, apartments, hotels, dining, offices, and even hospitals that can induce corporations considering a move to the Charlotte area to turn their gaze south.
“The big picture for us is, as we diversify our economy, we know we have a setting where we can compete with Charlotte for those office park jobs,” says David Swenson, executive director of York County’