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Developers pitch Wingate campus, loft apartments, retail for old mill

Clerestory windows of the Grey Hosiery Mill. Clerestory windows of the Grey Hosiery Mill.

Developers have proposed a Wingate University campus, an upscale marketplace and event center and loft apartments in response to the Hendersonville City Council's request for ideas for a transformation of the 97-year-old Grey Hosiery Mill.

The council invited developers to submit ideas for developing the historic mill at 400 N. Grove St., which the city owns. It was the second time the City Council has sent out a request for proposals, or RFP, for the mill and surrounding property. It invited proposals in 2010 and took no action on the responses it received.
Council members will review the newly submitted requests during a special meeting Monday at City Hall.
Two of the developers propose upscale loft apartments, one with an option to add space for Wingate.

Financial specifics were sparse. Only one developer submitted cost projections for reuse of the old mill — $6.7 million to convert it into Wingate's Hendersonville campus.

The developers outlined a combination of equity investment by its own partners, federal and state tax credits and borrowing. Among the tax credits developers cite as a factor in financing are federal historic tax credits, a housing tax credit and North Carolina mills tax credit.
None of the proposals called for a city investment in the mill itself, although one developer envisions upgraded sidewalks along Fourth and Fifth and Grove Street, new crosswalks and landscaping and utility work that presumably would involve public investment.

Built by Capt. James P. Grey and son James P. Grey Jr., the mill originally made children's socks. Owners added other buildings in 1919 and 1947. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making adaptive reuse eligible for tax advantages to offset the investment. The city-owned property contains eight buildings and a total of 28,135 square feet.

Here is a rundown of the proposed developments.

Wingate campus
CathFord Consulting, a Richmond, Va., based real estate developer, says that Wingate University has outgrown its leased space on King Street and will need 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of additional space for its planned physician's assistant and physical therapy degree programs in Hendersonville. "It is anticipated that with proper structuring we can provide a state of the art educational facility in the renovated historic mill that will provide the anchor east of Main Street that will serve as the impetus to create foot traffic west to Main Street, north to City Hall and south past the County Courthouse, thus creating the need for infill development and growing the economic base of the area," CathFord wrote.
The CathFord team includes CJMW architects, who guided the renovation of the Hendersonville City Hall in 2008. Another partner is contractor Frank L. Blum Construction of Winston-Salem.
CathFord estimated construction costs of $6.7 million, including $325,000 for exterior façade repairs, $1 million for interior improvements, $492,000 for interior demolitions and environmental abatement, $447,000 for design and engineering, $76,000 in legal fees, $417,844 in financing costs, and $590,000 for project management and other administrative costs. The developer projected a construction loan of $5.3 million would require an annual payment of $397,000. It projected that Wingate would pay $451,000 a year in rent. Construction time frame: one year.

Olde Mill Place
A marketplace and event center called Olde Mill Place is proposed by a team made up of Marie France N. LaChance, the owner of Nonesuch House & Home décor store at 234 N. Main St., and contractor John Kennedy, who has 32 years of experience restoring historic properties. The team said it had been considering construction of a facility like the one they propose when the Mill opportunity came up.
The Olde Mill Place would include a historic display in building 1, the Olde Mill Auction arena in building 2, the Nonesuch House and Home store in building 3, a furnace room in building 4, warehouse in building 5, offices in building 6, artists, craftsmen and vendors in building 7 and vendor space in building 8. The team said it would use local contractors including Trinity Construction and planned to hire a noted preservation engineer William Flynn Wescott of Asheville to guide the project.

Loft apartments with Wingate building
The White Challis Redevelopment Co. is made up of Investors Realty Group and HD Investors, whose principal is Austin Fazio, son of the renowned golf course designer. Jim Hall has dusted off his 2010 proposal for loft apartments and added a 15-17,000-square-foot building for a Wingate University expansion. The developer says the expanded space would be in a "post World War II building" at Fifth Avenue and Grove Street. The developer said it had presented its redevelopment proposal to Wingate president Jerry McGee in March and "discussed how best to tailor our proposed redevelopment program to support Wingate's graduate school programs."
The proposal envisions a mixed-use development of 30 urban loft apartments, two "commercial flex units" for office or retail and four "live-work" brownstone units on Fourth Avenue East.
The team includes architects Johnston Design Group and contractor Triangle Construction. Hall has renovated downtown property for residential use and most recently, he said in the proposal, guided the Southern Appalachian Brewery redevelopment on Locust Street in the Historic Seventh Avenue District. White Challis has renovated the historic 12,000-square-foot White Robin building in downtown Daytona Beach as loft apartments and is starting on a 15-unit brownstone project there in a partnership with the city.

Grey Mill Lofts
The Landmark Group, of Winston-Salem, proposes Grey Mill Lofts, using all but a 1960s addition in an adaptive reuse of the historic mill. Landmark says it will build up to 60 "live-work" lofts for artists, plus offices, galleries and a black box space for the Arts Council of Henderson County, which it lists as a partner. Landmark has done historic renovations of 85 "tax credit properties" in the South, including mill-to-loft conversions in Asheboro, Mebane, Greenville, Winston-Salem and Mt. Airy, and Rock Hill, S.C.

Ralph Freeman, a former City Council member who plans to run for the council again this year, warned against giving the property for a nonpublic use.

"My take was two of them were basically supporting apartments and one was the Arts Council and the Wingate campus," he said. "That is a valuable piece of property for the city of Hendersonville and once we give it up it's gone. I would put Wingate first because what's more valuable longterm than a university campus downtown."

Freeman sees a Wingate use as one that serves the public, possibly even with a large banquet room. "We still don't have a facility to accommodate a 400-people sitdown dinner in the city of Hendersonville," he said.

Freeman said another consideration is a space for Rhythm & Brews, which the city launched last week at the blocklong and half block deep Azalea parking lot. "We've outgrown that parking lot already," he said. "Where can you have an event if you don't have property that the city can control?"

He said he opposes apartments because that will eliminate use of the property for concerts, the arts and other events to enhance downtown.

"I don't want to do anything that the public doesn't have access to," he said.