City officials are on pace to complete an important step in reinventing the former Spencer’s Inc. site downtown.
One of the major items on the to-do list throughout the long process to redevelop the industrial property has been meeting an application deadline for historic tax credits deemed critical for the project.
And that is being accomplished, according to City Attorney Hugh Campbell, who is heavily involved in the effort to breathe life into former infant apparel-manufacturing facilities located near the heart of downtown which have been closed since 2007.
“August was a key date in the timeline,” Campbell acknowledged Tuesday afternoon regarding applying in time to be considered for the state historic tax credits — a process which is all but complete.
Those credits are available to support new uses for former textile mills, adapting the facilities for the modern world and the creation of jobs while preserving their architectural integrity. The tax credits provide a financial incentive to developers to help offset additional costs associated with rehabilitating historic buildings.
In the case of Spencer’s — a sprawling 10-acre complex containing more than 20 structures — three developers hold options to buy portions of the site purchased by the city government in 2014.
They are seeking to reconfigure the former textile-manufacturing space for use as a hotel/banquet center, upscale apartments and what has been described as an advanced textile manufacturing entity including “maker space” work stations where various artisans and crafters can create items.
Their respective plans represent a total investment of $28.5 million, which would boost Mount Airy’s tax base along with providing new employment opportunities for local residents.
City officials have said throughout the revitalization process that all these plans would be for naught without the historic tax credits that are viewed as a key financing tool.
Hurdle being cleared
Campbell, the city attorney, is part of a team representing the municipality’s interests in the redevelopment effort. That group also includes Mayor David Rowe; City Manager Barbara Jones; Martin Collins, community development director; and Mac McCarley, a Charlotte attorney and redevelopment expert contracted to assist Mount Airy in the process.
“The city team … and the development team have conference calls every other week,” the attorney said of constant contacts to monitor the plans.
The development group includes Dana Bryson of Brookstown Hospitality in Winston-Salem, which is planning the hotel/banquet center; Ken Reiter, owner of the Belmont Sayre real estate development firm in Durham, the prospective developer of the market-rate apartments; and Tom Webb, a longtime local businessman spearheading the start-up textile company and maker space.
“Last week at this time, they said they would be submitting things within the next day or so,” Campbell said Tuesday afternoon concerning documents for the historic tax credit application process.
Webb and Reiter have submitted their applications. “Those went in last week,” the city attorney related.
Bryson has not finalized her portion, but a slot has been reserved for her hotel project, so the three development efforts can be combined for a complete application.
“Everything has been submitted, or will be submitted by Dana, to keep them on line,” Campbell added in reference to beating the deadline.
The outcome of the application should be known within six to eight weeks after it is submitted.
The attorney did say that another step in the process, the completion of a finance package related to the tax credits which was targeted for June, has not occurred.
“We’ve not seen the final financials,” Campbell said.
“The next big step of the project is the development agreement, which will finalize and nail down the city’s commitment and the developers’ commitment going forward,” he said. “We’re supposed to have that done, hopefully, by Sept. 1.”
Efforts on track
Campbell said he is “absolutely” satisfied with where the Spencer’s redevelopment effort stands at this point.
Yet, he understands the skepticism some citizens might have when they pass by the Spencer’s property and see no outward progress. One local resident also asked about the status of the project during the public forum portion of a city commissioners’ meeting last Thursday night.
“I think the questions are not unexpected,” the city attorney conceded.
“It has taken a long time,” he said of the redevelopment, “but it is a very complicated project; you have three developers.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.