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McCrory, Gaston Chamber celebrate Loray Mill lofts grand opening

Visitors tour the second floor of the restored historic Loray Mill building in Gastonia during the grand opening of Loray Mill Lofts and shops Thursday.
Visitors tour the second floor of the restored historic Loray Mill building in Gastonia during the grand opening of Loray Mill Lofts and shops Thursday. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Gov. Pat McCrory basked Thursday evening before Gaston County business owners and civic leaders just hours after a measure he’s pushed that would offer tax credits to property owners who preserve historic buildings passed in the N.C. House.

McCrory, who is running for re-election in 2016, said reviving the state’s historic preservation tax credits will help revive North Carolina’s main streets and town centers.

“I’m proud of mill towns,” he said at the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual celebration inside the historic Loray Mill. “Right here is a role model of how we can spread this to every county and town in North Carolina.”

The tax credits expired Dec. 31, spurring McCrory and Susan Kluttz, his cultural resources secretary, to launch a statewide tour in which they urged supporters to push their senators to vote for a renewed tax proposal.

“The citizens of North Carolina cannot be silent about this,” Kluttz said Thursday. “This is too important. This is the history of North Carolina, and we’re sitting in it right here today.”

A $45 million redevelopment that added 192 loft apartments to the century-old mill is proof the incentives work, McCrory said.

The Loray once employed more than 3,500 people and powered Gaston County’s economy. In 1929, it was the site of a bloody labor strike that made international headlines.

Firestone Textile and Fibers bought the building in the 1930s but left in 1993. The once-prosperous mill village deflated as workers and their families died or moved away. Many homes became rental properties; others were left vacant.

Firestone donated the mill in 1998 to Preservation North Carolina, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that launched efforts to find a developer. In 2013, the mill’s remodeling began.

Despite a victory in the House, the tax bill still has to pass the Senate, where McCrory has said it faces opposition from the state GOP.

But emboldened by a tour of the mill’s amenities, McCrory told the crowd: “I want to invite every senator from the whole state of North Carolina to come to this mill.”

Supporters and developers have said the state’s historic tax credits helped make revitalizing the mill a reality.

Developers want to add a fitness club, coffee shop, hair salon and dry cleaner to anchor the site, as well as other resort-style amenities for its residents, said Joe Leninhan, a member of the team that redeveloped the mill.

“This is going to be an open place,” he said. “This mill is designed to bring the community in.”

McFadden: 704-358-6045

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