Lake Norman & Mooresville

Plan to transform Anchor Mill property moving forward

A Huntersville developer is preparing to transform a long-vacant property in the heart of downtown, laying the groundwork for a mixed-use development that would help spur redevelopment on this side of town.

Stretching over about 30 acres along Church Street, the property was once home to a textile mill and has remained unused for decades. Plans for its redevelopment failed to materialize over the years, with previous town leaders stopping short of reaching a deal for its renewal.

“This is a very important piece of property,” Town Manager Greg Ferguson said. Referring to a land purchase agreement reached last month between the town and the Bowman Development Group, he called it a “big step forward in the redevelopment of downtown.”

The plan for the Anchor Mill property calls for three-story apartment buildings, including condominiums and as many as 215,000 square feet of office and retail space, according to a conceptual master plan. The plan was submitted to the town in response to a request for proposals in late 2014.

As for aesthetics, the development would have a quaint, historic-like feel, featuring things like brick streets.

“It’s going to be spectacular,” said Nate Bowman, founder and president of the development group, which has carried out several projects in town and elsewhere in the Charlotte area. He added that the plan could see minor adjustments, citing negotiations with prospective tenants whom he declined to identify.

The redevelopment project would take shape next to another, far more expansive mixed-use development the group envisioned. That one, the Vermillion community, is still expanding, having grown to encompass more than 400 acres since it began in the late 1990s.

In early April, commissioners voted at a public hearing to sell the Anchor Mill property to Bowman for $1.6 million, with at least $250,000 going toward road improvements, Ferguson said. That price is based on an appraisal conducted earlier this year by a Charlotte-based firm.

Bowman could close on the land purchase agreement as soon as mid-February, he said, after submitting a site plan that would go before town commissioners for approval. After that, construction could begin, taking place in phases.

In the meantime, his group is performing due diligence, evaluating the property and finalizing engineering and design plans.

Among the preparations are hiring a structural engineer to inspect a water tower on the property — if it is structurally sound, it would remain standing and become part of the development — and conducting an environmental assessment. The property is designated a brownfield site, with part of it deemed “lightly contaminated” by industrial compounds, Ferguson said. He noted that the town is not responsible for paying for any cleanup.

The property has remained a focal point for the town since it acquired the land in the late 1990s. Years later, in the mid-2000s, the Anchor Mill was torn down after being partially destroyed by a fire.

But plans to redevelop it were delayed amid uncertainty over the long-planned Red Line passenger train, which would connect the Lake Norman area to Charlotte and which has yet to move forward. Then came the recession.

Now, however, the property represents a “viable redevelopment opportunity,” Ferguson said.

For Bowman, a longtime resident who lives just down the street from it and whose group has helped redevelop the eastern part of town, the town’s decision to finally sell the property was expected.

Indeed, it was a long time coming, he said, noting that he had unsuccessfully proposed to redevelop it at least three times over the years.

“I live here,” Bowman said. “This is my backyard.”

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: