City board to discuss Spencer’s option

By Tom Joyce -

City officials are scheduled this afternoon to discuss an option agreement that was entered into between the city and one of three developers seeking to reuse a portion of the former Spencer’s industrial property.

That discussion — to occur during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting beginning at 2 p.m. — involves an entity known as Fabrica Development Inc. Longtime local businessman Tom Webb is listed as the president of Fabrica.

In 2016, it joined two other private developers in forging option agreements to buy parts of the Spencer’s site for a $105,000 total. The term of the agreement is two years, during which the three may exercise their options to purchase the property as pre-development activities occur there.

In Fabrica’s case, the option is for a site known as “Lot 3,” a 1.33-acre parcel located to the rear of Spencer’s buildings fronting Willow Street. Its option with the city states that the old building on that spot is targeted for a business center and a performing arts center with an estimated construction cost of around $5 million.

The business center was described as an advanced textile manufacturing entity that additionally would include “maker space” work stations where various artisans and crafters could create items, according to a presentation earlier this year.

Mayor David Rowe explained Wednesday that the purpose of today’s discussion is “to have the option reflect what he (Webb) is actually doing.” Options in such cases tend to be “always in a state of flux,” added the mayor, who indicated that the discussion will be aimed at resolving or clarifying the situation.

However, the exact nature of any alterations to the original option agreement could not be pinpointed. Webb did not respond to a voice-mail message Wednesday seeking an explanation.

Today’s discussion will be the first time in recent weeks that officials air an aspect of the Spencer’s redevelopment project in an open setting. It has been discussed behind closed doors on multiple occasions.

After the Spencer’s infant-apparel manufacturing operations ceased in 2007, the site remained dormant until bought by the municipality in 2014.

City officials have since sought to redevelop the property for new uses to enhance the tax base and provide a boost to the local economy.

Along with the project envisioned by Webb, the other two private developers are seeking to build facilities including a hotel/banquet center and upscale apartments on portions of the Spencer’s complex for which they hold options.

It encompasses about 10 acres and more than 20 structures altogether.

Historic tax credits are being sought by all three developers, a type of financing that helps former textile mills such as Spencer’s be revamped for new uses while maintaining their architectural integrity.

Other agenda items

Among additional business at today’s meeting, Mount Airy officials are scheduled to:

• Hear a special presentation on a project for U.S. 601 by Jim Dunlop, a congestion management engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

• Consider the acceptance of a grant from a federal agency, the Appalachian Regional Commission, to help fund a water-sewer rehabilitation project in the area of Factory and West Pine streets.

• Contemplate similar action regarding a successful grant application to the State Historic Preservation Office to update a city architectural survey as part of ongoing preservation efforts locally.

Both grants require a match of city funds.

Mount Airy officials also are scheduled to hold a closed session regarding a possible acquisition of property and on a legal matter.

By Tom Joyce

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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