Barter Theatre plan passes in 3-2 vote

By Tom Joyce -

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners approved the Barter Theatre project at the former Spencer’s property downtown, on a 3-2 vote.

“I think this is a historic day for the city of Mount Airy,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said after the decision. “I have no doubt it’s the largest-single economic-development project ever in Mount Airy.”

A 500-seat theatre is to be developed on the former Spencer’s industrial property bought by the city government in 2014. In addition to the theater, plans call for the development of a boutique hotel with 90 rooms and a grand ballroom seating 350, along with an upscale apartment complex with 67 units and possibly more later. Yokeley said this represents an investment of more than $40 million in downtown Mount Airy.

But Thursday’s split vote reflected a controversy that has swirled around the possible Barter project since it was first announced publicly in late January, over concerns mainly related to the cost involved.

In addition to Yokeley, the agreement with the Barter Foundation was supported by commissioners Shirley Brinkley and Dean Brown. The board’s Jim Armbrister and Jon Cawley cast the dissenting votes.

A more detailed story, including discussion which took place during the vote, will be online soon at, and in Friday’s print edition of The Mount Airy News.

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.