Two local residents were appointed Thursday night to play key roles with the Spencer’s redevelopment project — and the price is right, with both to serve in a volunteer capacity.
Chip Pulliam was named project planning coordinator, while Charlie Vaughn was tapped as project construction coordinator.
Both appointments occurred through unanimous votes by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
Pulliam formerly served on the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission, a group appointed to guide the transformation of the former Spencer’s Inc. textile complex downtown after it was purchased by the city government in 2014.
That commission ended up being dissolved in January 2016 after its scope took in private properties near the redevelopment area against the wishes of council members.
In the meantime, plans have progressed for a four-star hotel/banquet center on the Spencer’s site along with upscale apartments and an expansion of the Barter Theatre based in Abingdon, Virginia.
When the city commissioners agreed unanimously to proceed with the project in a meeting on Aug. 2, after months of debate on financing the Barter component, it was suggested that a project manager be recruited to oversee the redevelopment process.
When the commissioners met again Thursday night, members of an ad hoc team that has explored the Barter/Spencer’s effort in recent months recommended that two individuals be involved instead.
The ad hoc team was instrumental in devising a concept in which the hotel developers agreed to fund the bulk of the 500-seat theater expansion and other costs, rather than earlier, controversial plans for the municipality to do so.
As planning coordinator, Pulliam largely will be focused on a public information aspect. It will include developing a project-specific website on the Spencer’s effort and releasing other information, along with making progress reports to the city board in open session at least once per month.
“This is a volunteer position, by the way,” stressed Gene Rees, a member of the ad hoc team. Unlike other consultants whose services have been enlisted by Mount Airy officials to aid the redevelopment, Pulliam’s involvement “won’t cost the city a penny,” Rees added.
He pointed to Pulliam’s previous service with the redevelopment group and his knowledge of the situation as a plus.
Meanwhile, Vaughn’s role as project construction coordinator basically will be to “keep the train running,” according to Thursday night’s discussion.
He will be a “construction traffic cop” to monitor multiple contractors involved in the Spencer’s redevelopment and related infrastructure work to meet strict timelines, according to Bryan Grote, another ad hoc team member.
Vaughn has more than 40 years of experience in the construction business, which included heading the local Landform company.
“It will be a fairly long commitment on his part,” Rees said, estimated at 2.5 years.
“He, again, will work free,” Rees said of the volunteer aspect with Vaughn. “He and Chip both have been very generous to give their time.”
Commissioner Steve Yokeley praised their commitment to aid the project in such a capacity and help move it forward. Yokeley said the city is in good shape with such volunteers, including the ad hoc team, who have spent “hundreds of man-hours” already.
Gray Angell, one of the hotel developers, also thanked Pulliam and Vaughn Thursday night while offering a word of caution regarding the progress of the redevelopment going forward.
“Really, until we have an agreement in place,” Angell said of final documents, “it’s really irrelevant.”
Angell additionally expressed the need for the project to move quickly due to requirements for tax credits sought for it and other funding aspects that have been hampered by delays.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.