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Chronicle Mill adaptive reuse project gets a boost

Jan 23, 2020 12:23PM

John and Jennifer Church with an architectural rendering of how the Chronicle Mill project will look when completed. Photos by Alan Hodge

By Alan Hodge

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The Chronicle Mill  project in downtown Belmont got a lift a couple of weeks ago when the city council approved an adaptive reuse investment grant for owners John and Jennifer Church. The grant is in the form of property tax breaks.

Basically, the Churches will pay 100% of all property taxes owed on the Chronicle Mill property to the City of Belmont and Gaston County each year. The Churches will begin the mill project development in accordance with its conditional zoning approval. Beginning in the fourth year, after successful completion of the project, and continuing for three more years, the city will provide a grant in the amount of 70% of the property taxes that have been paid to the city. If, for some reason, the Churches should demolish the project within ten years after the grant payment, they will have to repay the grant.

 The estimated value of this grant is $388,234 over four years, but the actual value will be based on the property valuation assigned by Gaston County  “I applaud the city leadership for providing incentives for adaptive reuse,”  said John.

Located on Catawba St., the 110,000 sq. ft. Chronicle Mill was built in 1901 by R.L. Stowe and other investors. Workers who laid the bricks for the imposing three-story structure earned $1.75 for every thousand they put down. Timber and other lumber used in the building cost $13 per thousand board feet delivered to the site. The mill’s name was chosen to honor a Revolutionary War patriot from Gaston County, Major William Chronicle, who had lived near the mill site and was killed in the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780. The first bale of cotton was fed into the Chronicle Mill’s steam-powered machinery on Feb. 28, 1902. By 1908, the mill was powered by electricity, a move that doubled production. In time, countless cones of cotton thread would be spun at the Chronicle Mill until it finally shut down in 2010. 

The mill sat empty for several years and the Churches bought it. An early idea John and Jennifer had would have seen the building transformed into a hotel, office, retail space, and event space, but the market wasn’t ready.

“There was not enough commercial demand to support that idea,” John said.

The Churches altered their original idea.

“It has evolved from commercial to apartments,” John said. “Apartment demand is very high.”

The Churches estimate that the Chronicle Mill apartments will bring a financial boon to Belmont.

“Each family in the community spends around $19,000 annually,” John said. “The project will have 240 apartments. That’s five million dollars in the local ecomony.”

When completed, the project could also add around 20 jobs to the local payroll.

The Churches are also leaping another hurdle in the Chronicle Mill saga.

When they bought the mill, its deed  was ‘bundled’ with 184 others in the area that stipulated that only single family dwellings are allowed. The deed restrictions, put in place in 1991 by R.L. Stowe Mills, covers not only property adjacent to the mill, but ones as far away as East Belmont. The Churches need 75 percent of deed holders to approve a document lifting the restriction. So far, they’ve gotten about 50 percent on board.

“The document will not change anything on their land,” said Jennifer. “It is private between the developers and parcel owners. It won’t cost the parcel owners anything.”

Jennifer has been going door to door with a copy of the document and a notary public at her side.

“We are willing to meet people any time, any where,” she said.

The Churches  have a developer and architectural firm lined up ready to go.

“Work on the buildings could start in sixty days,” said John.