Tonight’s Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting will begin with fanfare as three recently re-elected officials are sworn in, then it’s back to business as usual with their most-pressing project: the Spencer’s redevelopment.
The commissioners are poised to award a contract for $288,900 to a Virginia engineering firm to provide infrastructure planning and design services for the effort to transform the former textile mill property for new uses. Two projects are now on the table by private developers, one for a four-star hotel/banquet center and the other involving upscale apartments.
A sense of urgency is looming, according to documents released by the municipality — which owns the property — related to the proposed contract award to The Lane Group during today’s meeting at 7 p.m. Those materials point out that the Spencer’s Mill Redevelopment Project must be under construction by the end of next June in order to qualify for historic tax credits city officials have long deemed as essential to its success.
Work ahead includes regrading of areas around the old Spencer’s buildings and the reconstruction of parking space; improvements to adjoining streets and sidewalks along Franklin, Willow, West Oak and Virginia streets; and the replacement of water/sewer and storm drainage facilities.
The Lane Group would lay the groundwork for all that with field surveying, site-development plans, water and sewer improvement plans and additional services, if approved for the contract tonight.
It was one of four private engineering firms responding to city letters of interest regarding the need for infrastructure planning and design services for the property bought by the municipality in 2014. Spencer’s Inc. ceased its production of infant and children’s apparel there in 2007.
The Lane Group, which has an office in Galax, Virginia, was recommended for the contract by a city selection team, which cited Lane’s familiarity with Mount Airy through previous water and sewer rehabilitation and annexation projects.
While the Spencer’s redevelopment will include an estimated $28.5 million in private investment, the public site and utility improvements have a price tag of $4.5 million.
Mount Airy officials have said that grant funding would be sought to help offset that cost to taxpayers. Last spring, the city was awarded a $722,500 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, which will be used to improve water and sewer lines for the redevelopment.
City leaders have said the investment of public funds will be recouped over time through the increased tax base from the redevelopment, which also is to create 100 permanent jobs.
The historic tax credits also being sought aid such projects financially while preserving the architecture of former textile mills.
Before city officials take care of business relating to the Spencer’s site, some parliamentary functions will unfold tonight. This will be highlighted by oaths of office being administered to three council members re-elected to new four-year terms on Nov. 7.
They include Mayor David Rowe, who won his first full term after coming out on top in a special election in 2015 to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Deborah Cochran after she resigned; South Ward Commissioner Steve Yokeley, re-elected to his third term; and North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley, who was appointed to the city board in 2008 after the resignation of Tom Bagnal, and has run unopposed in the three municipal elections since.
Typically, a judge or other official administers the oaths of office, with the council members involved joined by family members.
Tonight’s schedule also sets aside time for remarks afterward by Rowe, Yokeley and Cawley.
Some housecleaning measures also will be involved, including the election of a mayor pro tem to serve at functions in place of the mayor, similar to a vice president. Cawley presently has that role.
In addition, committee assignments to the five commissioners will be made by Rowe.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.