New roads important part of development
FORT MILL — A developer’s plans for restoring the old Heritage USA property include a new road that will give York County residents a quick route through Regent Park to Pineville, N.C.
Grading is underway for an extension of Regent Parkway that will cut through the former complex created by Jim and Tammy Bakker to Dorman Road in Mecklenburg County, N.C. Construction is expected to be finished in a year.
The two-lane, approximately one-mile road will provide a back-door route to Carolina Place Mall, said Earl Coulston of Coulston Enterprises of Fort Mill, who is developing almost 1,000 acres in three counties.
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“The road is the key to the whole property here because of the location,” said Coulston. “We become part of Charlotte. It’s great for business and for the people.”
Construction isn’t new to the area, which now is home to Regent Park, a community of homes off U.S. 21. What’s different is that Coulston is beginning to remove and renovate many of the landmarks that once symbolized the Christian resort.
Grading also is under way on a second road that will link Regent Park with Springfield Parkway by way of the soon-to-be-built Nation Ford High School, said Eric Greenway, York County planning director. Coulston is sharing the cost for that road with Clear Springs Development Co. and the Fort Mill school district.
Dealing with growth
The new roads — built to county and state standards — will keep traffic moving through an area that is seeing incredible growth and includes the adjacent Springfield development, a 650-home community by Crescent Resources. The plan is to turn over the roads to the county.
The additional roads also will help prolong the life of existing thoroughfares nearing capacity and help cut down on emissions from cars idling at stop lights, Greenway said.
“Heritage is going to become not only a destination, but it’s going to serve a big purpose in connecting York County to the retail area in Pineville,” said Greenway. “There will be better traffic distribution.”
But road clearing is just part of the work going on at the site of the former resort founded by the Bakkers of the now defunct-PTL.
Coulston’s master plan, approved by York County early this year, calls for more than 600 single-family homes in York County and another 670 single-family homes in Lancaster and Mecklenburg counties, multi-family units, commercial areas for restaurants and shopping, some light industrial and about 70 acres for his daughter’s equestrian center and estate homes, including his own one day.
He’s also creating a public parking lot for the Nation Ford Greenway, a 31-mile nature trail that snakes through York and Mecklenburg counties.
• Demolition of the old water park and other dilapidated buildings. Coulston expects the five-and-a-half story “Killer Typhoon” water slide to be removed soon.
• Grading on two of four subdivisions in York County, with the permitting process ongoing for subdivisions in the other two counties.
• Construction of Crown Plaza, two commercial buildings with a combined 45,000 square feet off U.S. 21 at the Regent Park entrance. Half the space already is leased to tenants, including three to four eating places, a hair salon and dry cleaners, Coulston said.
60 acres for ministries
Sixty acres once occupied by Bakker’s studio, an assembly hall and an amphitheater are dedicated for use by five or six international ministries Coulston hopes to attract.
The roof is being replaced at the studio, which will be used by Coulston’s wife for her Flames of Fire ministry. Next door at the assembly hall, the roof has been removed and the building is to be renovated.
The amphitheater is leased through the end of the year to NarroWay Productions, a Christian theater company. But Coulston dreams of one day turning it over to the youth.
“It could be a place where they can come with their music and express their faith,” he said.
Opening the place to ministries is important to Coulston, who has built orphanages over the past 10 years in Russia and Central America.
“We want to bring people from all around the world,” he said. “I want everybody to feel at home and feel a part of it.”
Already, MorningStar Fellowship Church has purchased 52 acres and is holding services in the lobby of the old hotel. Recently, Cause USA, a youth ministry, moved offices to the MorningStar site and is renovating cabins, said Gary Bass, York County building official.
MorningStar, formerly located in Pineville, moved its School of Ministry to the site early this year and hopes to open a school for kindergartners through grade 12 in the fall, said Rick Joyner, MorningStar founder. The plan is to move church services to the 1,800-seat conference center in January.
Coulston, who attends MorningStar services, would like to see ministries everywhere, he said.
A developer most of his life, Coulston was general manager for Malaysian United Industries, which bought the 2,200-acre retreat in the late 1980s from bankruptcy court after Bakker’s ministry fell apart.
Coulston developed the plan for the property during the six or seven years he worked for the Malaysians. After doing mission work for two years in Russia, he came back to find he “still had a heart for it.”
Reaction from neighbors has been positive, he said, adding someone told him he needed to redeem the property for God. He told them he’d use the profits to build orphanages around the world, he said.
Coulston hopes to have the redevelopment complete in five years, he said.
“We’re going to take our time to do it right,” he said. “We want to keep it growing and growing.”
Sidebar: Heritage USA history
In 1977, Jim and Tammy Bakker founded the 2,200-acre Heritage USA Christian complex for his Praise the Lord ministry. Heritage USA, located off U.S. 21 Business in Fort Mill Township, included a 500-room hotel, a water park, a 21-story tower, campground, amphitheater and tennis courts.
The original development was paid for by donations to PTL, which promised its partners free nights at Heritage for their lifetime. The ministry fell apart in the 1980s after a sex and money scandal.
After the downfall, the property passed through several owners and re-opened in 1992, when Malaysian United Industries bought it for $42.6 million. After the Malaysian company’s unsuccessful attempts to transform the development into a resort, it closed again in 1997.
This year, Fort Mill developer Earl Coulston completed purchasing almost 1,000 acres in the area, which is now called Regent Park. He plans to build 600 houses in York County and add commercial uses and international ministries.
He sold 52 acres to MorningStar Fellowship Church, which conducts services and conferences at the former Grand Hotel.
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