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City revises Grey Mill agreement

The Hendersonville City Council on Wednesday authorized a new agreement designed to ensure the renovation of the Grey Hosiery Mill for 35 apartments, with seven of those guaranteed to offer affordable rent for 15 years.

"The public receives benefit in the fact that the mill is preserved," City Manager John Connet said. The development adds 35 units downtown, with 20 percent of them at an affordable rate for a period of 15 years.

Under the terms of the agreement, developer Belmont Sayer of Chapel Hill would purchase the property for $700,000, paying $100,000 at closing; repay $250,000 more eight years from now and repay the $350,000 balance in years 9 through 15 at $50,000 a year. At any time the developer could make a balloon payment to repay the loan all at once.

The concept of apartments evolved after Belmont Sayer told city officials that the council's first choice — a boutique hotel — was not financially feasible.

The new deal obligates the city to make streetscape improvements between Grove and Main streets so that apartment dwellers would have an easy and safe walk to the shops and restaurants downtown. City officials also see the mill project as an opportunity to connect North Grove Street with the Historic Seventh Avenue District.

"There are two critical things," Connet said. "The sale price is important but it's not as important as preserving the Grey Mill and getting a good return for the public and this project serving as a catalyst between Main Street and Seventh Avenue. The money we receive is going to be reinvested in streetscape and other public improvements.

The mill developer is close to landing a construction loan and starting work early next year, Connet said.

"They're pushing hard to have a construction loan closing on or about Dec. 14," Connet said. "If they get the construction loan this seals the deal. It's going."