The Hendersonville City Council could find itself back to the drawing board one more time if the latest proposal for a Grey Hosiery Mill redevelopment fizzles.
Two council members predicted that Wingate University would pull out of negotiations for a long-term lease, which a developer would need to make the $6.7 million project doable.
Richmond, Va.-based CathFord Consulting won the right in June to pursue the project with Wingate as the partner. The private college east of Charlotte operates a pharmacy school and graduate business degree program in Hendersonville and plans to add other graduate programs here.
The council voted 3-2 to give CathFord 90 days to reach a deal with Wingate to proceed with development of the city-owned industrial building. The 90-day period has expired, and council members say they expect to hear a report as early as this week.
"We're still talking," the CathFord developer, Robert P. Englander Jr., said Monday. "We haven't finalized anything with Wingate. They're still trying to analyze their needs and analyze their requirements and what they need in the building. I'm hoping to have an answer one way or the other before that meeting. They've got some concerns that the building does not lay out as efficiently as they want it to be."
Go or no-go
Wingate also is seeking more parking, Englander said.
That's something the city could be willing to help with, said City Manager John Connet. Connet said he had no firm answer yet on whether the developer and Wingate could reach a deal.
"I am waiting for something from the developer any day now," he said. "What I should know (by Thursday) is whether we've got a go or a no-go."
Council members Steve Caraker and Ron Stephens, who both voted for a residential project instead of the Wingate proposal, both said they thought the college idea was going down the drain.
"From what I hear Wingate is going to pull out of the latest mill proposal, which several of us knew they would if they didn't get the plan they wanted," Caraker said. "My guess is by the end of the week the city will get a letter saying 'thanks but no thanks.'"
Both Caraker and Stephens said they understand that Wingate doesn't want the entire building. That would mean tossing the question back to the council.
Caraker and Stephens said giving the building to a developer to revitalize is as far as they're willing to go; they don't want to spend city money on parking or development.
"Wingate wanted more parking, and also they didn't need all the building so they wanted us to pay for part of the building, neither of which I would vote for," Stephens said.
Proposal divides council
The mill proposal has divided the council and popped up as a campaign issue.
Jeff Collis, who is running for re-election, said in a posting on his campaign's Facebook site that the City Council was one vote away from reversing last June's decision on the mill and giving the project to a group out of Daytona Beach, Fla., that includes Hendersonville developer Jim Hall. Collis accuses Hall of having poorly kept up property in the city, and says he does not want the council to grant Hall's group access to the mill.
Collis said he is optimistic that the Wingate proposal will go forward.
"The city manager sent a thing out saying we would be talking about some of the logistics of it," he said. "I'm still pretty optimistic about it."
Englander said he was still hoping the college would agree to a deal.
"We think we can find the parking for them on site or adjacent to the site," he said. "We're working through all their issues. The city and the county I think will try to accommodate that. We've got a moving target and we're trying to meet that moving target."