COOLEEMEE, N.C--The southern Davie County town of Cooleemee has announced nearly $270,000 in federal, state and local grants will be used to attract developers and create plans to revitalize and reopen the town's old cotton mill.
Town leaders say they hope to find ways to turn the empty 600,000 square-foot plant into shops, restaurants, light industry work space and living space.
Cooleemee Mayor Lynn Rumley said, "the community refused to die and now we have something to bring it back. We are pretty optimistic and at same time pretty sober about the possibilities."
An Environmental Protection Agency grant of $200,000 along with a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts for $35,000 matched by state and local funds are helping fund the mill revitalization study.
First fully operational in 1901, originally owned by Erwin Mills, the Cooleemee Mill was once Davie County's largest employer. Nearly 2,000 people worked there until 1969 then owner Burlington Mills closed the facility.
Terry Bralley, President of Davie County Economic Development, said, "it was the economic engine for this county for many many years here."
Bralley believes this project can help the mill play a vital role in Cooleemee's economy again.
"What's great here is a community with a vision that wants to do something about it. They want to say how do we breath new life into this asset," said Bralley.
Developers who helped revitalize the Saxapahaw Rivermill in Alamance County will work with town leaders to start the study later this year.