Spencer’s developers supply new details


Involves hotel, apartments, textile start-up

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com



Three developers planning projects for the former Spencer's industrial property downtown, standing from left, Ken Reiter, Tom Webb and Dana Bryson, provide updates during a Thursday night meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. The board's Shirley Brinkley is pictured to the left.


Tom Joyce | The News

This graphic shows where the hotel and other facilities are planned at the Spencer's site, from the vantage point of Willow Street at the bottom.


Tom Joyce | The News

Terms such as grand ballroom, rooftop decks with “breathtaking” views of Pilot Mountain and a possible swimming pool atop a building are not normally associated with downtown Mount Airy.

But those and other amenities are eyed for the former Spencer’s industrial property there, according to an update of plans Thursday night by three developers seeking to reconfigure the former textile-manufacturing space for use as a hotel, upscale apartments and more.

Although those previously were announced, new details surrounding the project emerged during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners along with the first public disclosure regarding a third desired use for Spencer’s property now owned by the city government.

Textile start-up

Tom Webb, a longtime local businessman who has been linked to plans for some type of performing arts center in one Spencer’s building as part of an entity called Fabrica Development Inc., Thursday night revealed another component.

It is a start-up textile company eyed for a 70,000-square-foot structure adjacent to Lovill Street which is to the rear of other buildings fronting Willow Street which the hotel/banquet center and apartments are targeting.

“It would be advanced manufacturing,” Webb said of the operation envisioned, unlike the traditional apparel production prominent in periods such as the 1960s. “It wouldn’t be the old cut-and-sew.”

While the manufacturing facility is planned on the upper level of the building, the lower one is eyed for a “maker space.” Webb explained that this would include about 16 stations with different machines, to be used by various artisans and crafters to create items.

“This is a pretty exciting thing that can happen in that space,” he added.

Despite the new plans for that building unveiled Thursday night, Mayor David Rowe — who has been working closely on the Spencer’s redevelopment — says a performance center component is still being entertained.

“It has not fallen through — it is still under consideration,” the mayor said Friday.

Recently, he and other city officials visited the Barter Theatre in Virginia, presumably as part of that effort.

All three developers hold options to buy former Spencer’s property, with their projects said to represent a total investment of $28.5 million and the promise of new employment opportunities for local residents.

Hotel plans

Meanwhile, Dana Bryson, an official of Brookstown Hospitality in Winston-Salem, updated plans Thursday night for the hotel/banquet center her company is planning at the site.

This includes 75 to 90 guest rooms, a grand ballroom seating 350 people which could accommodate large gatherings, a restaurant and bar seating 100, three “breakout” rooms each accommodating 70 to 90 people and a “boardroom” seating 25.

Bryson also mentioned a special courtyard.

“I think it will be a beautiful place for brides to have an outdoor wedding,” said the developer, who explained that she has been brainstorming elements for the hotel from a bride’s point of view.

However, at this point, no indoor swimming pool is part of the mix, which Commissioner Shirley Brinkley told Bryson could cause her establishment to lose business because hotels elsewhere in town do possess those amenities.

“I would love to have one,” Bryson responded.

“We have discussed it,” she said, but not identified a space for a pool — either indoors or maybe on top of the building.

In response to a question from Commissioner Jim Armbrister, Bryson said present plans call for no pets being allowed in the hotel rooms, except for service dogs, which she said is to prevent allergy problems among guests.

Bryson said there is a possibility for that to change to a pet-friendly facility.

Apartment project

Ken Reiter, owner of the Belmont Sayre real estate development firm in Durham, also supplied new details regarding the market-rate apartments eyed for three of the old Spencer’s structures.

Sixty-seven units are planned, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that reportedly would rent for $700 to $1,200 per month.

Reiter said rooftop decks with views of Pilot Mountain are part of the mix, along with a courtyard for the apartment complex.

One section of the property is set aside for future apartments, according to conceptual drawings presented Thursday night.

Reiter’s firm played a key role in developing the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham and similar projects using former industrial structures.

Delay explained

The Durham developer, who served as a spokesman for all three, acknowledged Thursday night that the redevelopment has “moved a little slower than you guys want it to,” referring to the city commissioners.

“We are behind schedule,” Reiter said, “from where we want to be” — citing a delay of four to five months.

“I know people are wondering why this (the redevelopment) is taking so long.”

Reiter offered some explanations, beginning with the fact that the Spencer’s complex is large — more than 22 buildings spread over 10 acres. Digital scanning technology was used to map out the complex and all its fixtures, which has enabled developers to become aware of everything there, he said.

“There is some contamination of the property,” Reiter said of another issue that’s affected the plans, which the city government has addressed.

“We’re in the process of completing our pre-development activities,” he said of dealing with such issues.

At another meeting recently, the commissioners approved a revised timetable designed to get the redevelopment back on track.

That included meeting a deadline this month for preparing conceptual drawings for the new facilities, which were presented Thursday night.

Another target date on the horizon is June 2017, when a finance package must be completed related to the seeking of tax credits considered essential for the redevelopment.

The historic tax credits are available to support new uses for former textile mills while preserving their architectural integrity.

“We feel real comfortable about moving forward,” Reiter said of meeting the specified deadlines. “It’s very exciting to participate in something like this.”

He added that one key task will involve designing the infrastructure for the redevelopment area.

City Attorney Hugh Campbell said Thursday night that he thinks the Spencer’s Mill Redevelopment Project is in good hands with the three entities involved.

“They have demonstrated tremendous creativity and enthusiasm for Mount Airy,” Campbell said of the developers.

“I can’t tell you how impressed I have been with (their) experience and qualifications.”

Three developers planning projects for the former Spencer’s industrial property downtown, standing from left, Ken Reiter, Tom Webb and Dana Bryson, provide updates during a Thursday night meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. The board’s Shirley Brinkley is pictured to the left.
http://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_Develop-thees-1-1.jpgThree developers planning projects for the former Spencer’s industrial property downtown, standing from left, Ken Reiter, Tom Webb and Dana Bryson, provide updates during a Thursday night meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. The board’s Shirley Brinkley is pictured to the left.Tom Joyce | The News

This graphic shows where the hotel and other facilities are planned at the Spencer’s site, from the vantage point of Willow Street at the bottom.
http://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_Develop-thees-2-1.jpgThis graphic shows where the hotel and other facilities are planned at the Spencer’s site, from the vantage point of Willow Street at the bottom.Tom Joyce | The News
Involves hotel, apartments, textile start-up

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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