Davidson College hopes remaking an old mill can bring “Startup Alley” to Lake Norman area

Rendering of Davidson College’s plans for the former textile building.
Rendering of Davidson College’s plans for the former textile building.

Davidson College said this week that it’s planning to turn a former mill into a new center for entrepreneurship and innovation for the Lake Norman area.

Called The Hub@Davidson, the new center will be constructed in the former Bridgeport Fabrics building, a 1920s-era mill at 210 Delburg Street, just off Main Street in Davidson. Workers have gutted the building, and construction on the first 6,000 square feet is expected to start this summer. The college is building a new facade and installing a new roof, windows and HVAC systems.

“The Hub@Davidson aims to connect with, and help grow, a vibrant Lake Norman-area technology, innovation and entrepreneurship community,” said Davidson College President Carol Quillen, in a statement. The college bought the property in 2014 for $730,000. A $1 million gift from alumnus Ed Van Deman, CEO of Financial Navigator Inc., and his wife Nancie Fimbel is funding the first phase of the interior construction.

The building will include classroom, research and “creation” space, and the college will invite outside companies and organizations to use the space as well. The first phase will include a “Startup Alley” of small, private spaces for students to collaborate and launch business ventures. The goal is to stimulate entrepreneurship and help prepare graduates of the liberal arts school for careers.

“More effective collaboration between higher education and business is not about producing widgets,” said Jaimie Matthews Francis, director of programs and operations for education and workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in a statement. “It’s about providing experiences for students that will make them more aware of what life is like post-graduation, challenge them to solve real life issues, and stretch their thinking in what it means to contribute to a team, company or community.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo