Hundreds of Duke Energy employees will soon work at this century-old mill

Rendering of Tompkins Hall
Rendering of Tompkins Hall

Duke Energy says it’s leasing the office space under construction at Tompkins Hall, a former textile mill just north of uptown that’s more than a century old.

The office space will be a big shift for Duke Energy, which has traditionally housed its uptown workers in the office towers dotting the city’s skyline. Meant to be more funky and collaborative than typical uptown office space, about 400 Duke Energy employees will work at the former mill on a permanent basis, with about 100 more working there on a rotating basis.

“It’s important to note that we do not have this kind of space available in our existing buildings in Charlotte,” Duke Energy spokesman Neil Nissan said. “The innovative design of the facility and unique work space is a perfect fit to support our strategy to continue delivering customer-focused products and services.”

The company plans to move in to the office space in the spring of 2018.

Teams working at Tompkins Hall will include employees “focused on developing new customer programs and solutions,” Nissan said.

The historic mill is next to the Blue Line light rail extension in the Optimist Park neighborhood, at 16th Street and Parkwood Avenue, near the Parkwood station. The Blue Line extension is set to start running by March.

For Duke Energy, it’s a roundabout return to the company’s roots. The company was founded in the early 1900s to provide hydroelectric power from the Catawba River to the area’s textile mills, which were starting to change the region from its agricultural roots.

Parts of the mill date to 1891, with other brick-and-timber portions built through the 1910s, a time when the area north of what’s now uptown was dotted with a half-dozen textile mills and hundreds of small houses for the people who worked there. The mill was built and owned by Daniel Augustus Tompkins, a prominent mill developer who also owned the Observer’s predecessor, the Charlotte Daily Observer.

Some of the modern parts of the mill complex, metal-sided buildings that dated to the 1990s, have already been torn down to expose the original building.

In addition to the 83,000 square feet of office space at Tompkins Hall, plans for the site include a 22,229 square-foot food hall, with about 20 vendors selling local foods, another 31,514 square feet of bars and restaurants, an outdoor dining area and up to 225 apartments on adjacent sites.

Development group White Point Paces Partners paid almost $6.4 million to buy the mill in 2016, real estate records show. Paces Properties developed the conceptually similar Krog Street Market in Atlanta.

Tompkins Hall isn’t the only adaptive reuse project in a former industrial site north of uptown. New York-based ATCO is developing up to 1.5 million square feet of office space at Camp North End, on Statesville Avenue, in old buildings that were once a Ford Model T plant, a missile assembly site and a Rite Aid distribution center.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo