A few stray pantyhose still litter the floors of the derelict mill at Parkwood Avenue and 16th Street, but developers are gearing up to start a major rehabilitation that will turn the century-old structure into a food court, restaurants and loft-style office space.
Walking through the building Thursday, executives at White Point Paces Partners pointed excitedly to historic features: Bright metal filings ground into the original hardwood floors from the mill machinery, arched windows, solid timber beams holding up 14-foot ceilings. There are plenty of reminders of the more recent past too (The building was a functioning hosiery warehouse until a few months ago): Lists of fishnet stockings, knee-highs and toe-less pantyhose, colored “suntan” and taupe and black.
“The character of it is unreal,” said David Cochran, CEO of Paces Properties, which developed the conceptually similar Krog Street Market in Atlanta.
White Point Paces Partners – a joint venture of Charlotte-based White Point and Atlanta-based Paces – paid almost $6.4 million to buy the mill earlier this year, real estate records show. They’ve already torn down the more recent add-on parts of the complex, metal-sided buildings that dated to the 1990s, exposing the original brick structures behind. The oldest parts of the mill date to 1891, with other brick-and-timber portions built through the 1910s.
“This is 1895,” said Jay Levell of White Point, standing on a dark wood floor that smells like crayons from decades of cottonseed oil soaked into it. The company is seeking to get the mill on the National Historic Register, and plans to start construction in April 2017. Levell said the group is negotiating with several tenants, and he hopes to have tenants in place and open by the first quarter of 2018.
The mill is being rebranded as Tompkins Hall, an homage to its original builder and owner Daniel Augustus Tompkins – a prominent mill developer who also owned the Observer’s predecessor, the Charlotte Daily Observer, in the late 1800s.
Tompkins Hall will include three main portions, with original windows restored in all of them to bring in natural light. The largest will be 83,005 square feet of office space, with hardwood floors and ceilings between 14 and 18 feet. One wing will be converted into a 22,229 square-foot food hall, with about 20 vendors selling local foods, and another will become 31,514 square feet of bars and restaurants.
Another modern addition is set to be demolished on the southern edge of the property, which will clear the way for an outdoor dining plaza with views of uptown. White Point Paces Partners also controls adjacent sites to the mill, which it plans to redevelop in the future with 225 new apartments.
The whole site is adjacent to the Blue Line light rail extension, set to open in late summer 2017. Tompkins Mill will also have access to the Cross Charlotte Trail and the Rail Trail, drawing more people. That access made it attractive to the developers.
“We think when the light rail opens, you’ll see what happened in South End happen here,” said Erik Johnson of White Point.
Other developers have already shown interest in the area, especially with a wave apartments that’s set to bring hundreds of new residents to the Optimist Park neighborhood. A few blocks away at 21st and North Davidson streets, Miller Valentine Group plans to build 275 apartments, while Beauxwright is planning to build 50 apartments at Parkwood Avenue and 17th Street. NRP Group is building 335 apartments at Parkwood Avenue and North Brevard Street.