Cotton mill renovation takes step ahead

Macon City Council voted 13-1 on Tuesday to support a resolution that could lead to a historic cotton mill being turned into residential units.

The council’s vote authorizes the Middle Georgia Regional Commission to prepare and submit a joint application on behalf of the city and Bibb County to apply for a $1.5 million grant to redevelop the Atlantic Cotton Mills building.

The grant money comes from the state’s Department of Community Affairs. Should the grant be approved, it would help fund a $13.5 million redevelopment project to convert the 121-year-old mill into new housing.

For supporters of the project, the vote marked a huge relief as previous votes had come up short. The council rejected a resolution to apply for the grant last summer. The following week, the council reconvened to pass an amended resolution before the application deadline.

However, the amended resolution, which would have given the city more control over the grant money, ultimately cost the city the grant, according to a DCA letter. That decision came in late January.

Currently, there’s an April 15 deadline to submit a new grant application.

A Winston-Salem, N.C.-based developer, Landmark Development, is seeking to turn the 80,000-square-foot facility into 108 lofts and other housing units. The $1.5 million grant will complete the funding for the project, coming largely from the developer. About $8 million of the funding would go toward construction costs. Once the renovation work is complete, the property would bring in more than $250,000 in property taxes after local and state tax credits expire.

Assuming the project goes forward, once the loans are repaid, the money could then be used for other local development projects.

Josh Rogers, executive director of Historic Macon, said he was happy to see the project clear another hurdle.

“The success of (getting it passed) is due to a lot of volunteer hours,” he said. “We worked hard to see it pass. I’m happy we got a second chance and that City Council made good on it.”

Councilman Mike Cranford, who didn’t support the project when it was initially presented last year because he thought other parts of the city were in greater need of funding, said that the language of the current resolution worked for him and that the project would benefit the entire city.

“The language in the original resolution was troubling to me,” Cranford said. “I didn’t think the city had sufficient oversight with the grant. ... But the (current) resolution presented to us corrected all of that. Council has a lot more input. I think it’s a worthwhile project that will certainly be a boon to the city.”

Councilman James Timley, who voted against the other versions of the resolution, was the lone dissenting vote Tuesday. Councilman Charles Jones was absent from the vote.

Rogers said the DCA will make its decision within a few months. If it awards the city the grant, the project should begin this year, he said.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.