So goes the slogan at the city’s Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department — and if you ask the people, most of them will agree. Rock Hill, South Carolina offers a unique combination of Northern-style modernity with Southern politeness and hospitality. A tour through the city will reveal grassy suburban parks and the smell of Deep South pulled pork on the grill (locals note South Carolina is “all about barbecue” and shouldn’t be confused with the gumbos or stews of Georgia or Louisiana.) The small-town suburb sits just 25 miles across the state line from Charlotte, N.C. (locals there note Charlotte is “all about Nascar and B of A debit card fees and should not be confused with quiet sports or corporate altruism") and is situated in York County, a part of the Olde English District.
Although Rock Hill has had some serious problems in recent years with violent crime, it's working hard not to make its slogan become "Break Rocks (Then Back To Your Cell)"! Anyone considering a move to Rock Hill should certainly be aware of the city's hardscrabble résumé; South Carolina was ranked second highest state for violent crime in 2011, however, there are still plenty of spots in Rock Hill that offer great places to live – where the only hard scrabble is K Z M Q E L Y in your rack. Here, we will help guide you to those areas.
Rock Hill isn’t world-renowned for its culture or class. If you visit the website Rock-Hill.com, for instance, you will find that the only business listed is the local Hooters. The two high schools are in the midst of an intense, decades-old rivalry and violent crime has swept over many parts of the town (over who gets to go to the lone Hooters, it is presumed). That said, the city mimics Charlotte in its ardent pursuit for regional – and national, of course, business relocations. As such, job opportunities here are more robust than in many parts of the south. It is easy to find a place to rent and the cost of living is significantly cheaper than its neighboring communities. Winters are mild and summers, though hot, offer great escape from the intense humidity of other southern locales. You don’t find traffic congestion and locals display the same trademark politeness of any southern city (unless you're getting mugged, then not really).
In the last decade the town has grown immensely with its population increasing almost 40 percent since 2000. Its big sister city and neighbor, Charlotte, and some call it the “last northern city.” This makes Rock Hill a pleasant mixture of the two ways of life with close proximity to an urban metropolis, and a de facto gateway to the South. Unlike cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, or Memphis, the Charlotte region is largely made of transplants rather than natives. For this reason, you find broader diversity in people, politics and lifestyles here. With Winthrop University at its doorstep, Rock Hill has now twice won the America Promise Alliance’s award for “100 Best Communities for Young People.”
Neighborhoods is Rock Hill are largely split into subdivisions and gated communities with names like Sweetwater Plantation, Amber Ridge, Wedgewood, Hidden Forest, Riverwood, Brittany Meadows, and Taylor Oaks – the standard something pleasant followed by a body of water or type of flora. The majority of these communities have created neighborhood associations and tend to be safer than other parts of town. Many have established neighborhood watch programs and if you are looking at relocating to the area, it would be wise to investigate these options.
Many of the subdivisions are filled with owner-occupied homes, however, rentals are still available and property management companies can direct you to the areas that fit you best. Outside the gated communities and townhouse subdivisions, crime rates tend to be higher and it is important if you are considering them to consult a crime map. The city has a valuable crime data resource here. You should click.
Below, the crime rates are narrowed down to a few distinct regions.
North and Northwest Rock Hill
This is the safest part of Rock Hill by far. In the Northern tip of the city you have the neighborhood of India Hook. Though this area still only rates a 9 on a national index of 100, it is, gulp, the best in town. Newport and the McConnell’s Highway neighborhoods offer comparable crime rates. Heckle Boulevard crosses Main Street in this part of town and is considered safe here too (It is further south by Ogden and Crawford Roads that Heckle gets spottier). In the east, there is also a tiny pocket of town called Lesslie that has lower crime rates. Much of the existing crime in these parts of town are property-related rather than violent. Prices will be a little higher here but most consider it worth the cost for the peace of mind.
South and East Rock Hill
These two sections of town fall into the mid-crime range. They are certainly not the most violent or crime-ridden parts of town but also not rated the safest. In the south you have the Smith/Ogden neighborhood. In the deep east you have Friendship, which looks like an upside down hook on the map. Much of the crime in these parts of town is burglaries and auto theft but you also find assault and violent crime. Both areas will give you moderate crime rates at moderate prices.
Downtown and Central Rock Hill
The central section of Rock Hill is without a doubt the most dangerous part of town. Violent crime rates are highest in the City Center region, as well as by Winthrop University and Oakland Avenue. In these areas, in addition to car break-ins and property crimes, you find assaults, rapes and murders. As you get out to places like Dave Lyle Boulevard, Boyd Hill, Mexico, Saluda Road and Albright Road, crime decreases but only slightly. While there are decent places to live here, each should be examined through this lens. The advantage in this part of town is of course cheaper rent and possibly an HBO series on location coming to you. It's best to look elsewhere if you can afford it.
Around Rock Hill, there are ample bus lines to get you where you need to go. Although “bike culture” has not yet hit the city, in 2010 a citizens group proposed bike lanes and pedestrian walkways near the university and it appears some may soon get off the ground - or, more aptly, on it. Taxi cabs are also available, but with any troubled neighborhood, the certainty of cabs is like the certainty of winning scratch-off tickets. While by no means a mecca of alternative transportation, the city is changing as more transplants arrive and bicycles, pedestrian routes and other means of public transit are no doubt a part of the city’s future. The commute to Charlotte by I-77, was recently made easier with its expansion to eight lanes. Nevertheless, if you are planning to commute each day into Charlotte, be prepared for some traffic woes.
One key advantage to living in Rock Hill that many strangely overlook is that South Carolina offers much lower tax rates. Many people choose to work and play in Charlotte but live in Rock Hill to take advantage of this concrete economic incentive. In addition, you get to enjoy the feeling of small-town living (albeit not Norman Rockwell) while having close access to the amenities of a very metropolitan city and notable hub of U.S. business.