Nick Piornack talks about the development of Revolution Mill

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- More than a hundred years after it was built, one of the Piedmont’s largest buildings is living up to its name.

Nearly four years after the Self-Help Ventures Fund out of Durham started developing the old Cone Revolution Cotton Mill in southeast Greensboro, Business Development Manager Nick Piornack and his team are putting together one unique and innovative development.

First, some history: construction began on the Revolution Mill in the early part of the 20th century. By 1930, it was the largest flannel factory in the world. 6,000 to 10,000 workers in three different shifts rotated in and out every day.

Revolution faded a little more than 50 years later when -- like what happened to many North Carolina textile mills -- work went overseas. Cone Mills ceased operations here in 1982.

Fast forward to today. It’s a place where people live, work, eat and play -- all in a place that’s also on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The floors, of course, are very important,” Piornack told me when he gave me a tour of the mill recently. “Anywhere there was significant damage we replaced with similar maple and sanded everything out and blended it the best we could.”

Piornack knows blending well. He’s incorporated it in his recruitment of tenants. There are 90 businesses that call Revolution home and he’s looking for more.

“And they are from hair salons to law firms to interior designers,” he said. “And if you walked down the halls you cannot really figure out one type of industry we’re targeting.”

One of the largest businesses in the building so far is LT Apparel. It’s a company based in New York that designs, makes and markets apparel and accessories for some of the country’s top brands. The 30 people in the Greensboro operation focus mainly on the Adidas and Carhartt children’s lines. They work in more than 12,000 square feet in Revolution.

But businesses aren’t the only ones calling Revolution home. There’s a waiting list for the 12 studio spaces for working artists. There’s also an art gallery that’s a collaborative effort between Revolution and UNC-Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Among the most dynamic parts of the complex runs almost the entire length of the mill’s south building. The 140 apartments feature 26 different floor plans. Rent is in the low $900s for one-bedroom units, low $1000s for two-bedrooms. At this writing, the apartments are about 50 percent leased.

“All of them are built within the fabric and integrity of the mill,” Piornack said. “So where there was a brick wall, we left it. Whether there was a column in the middle of the bedroom, we worked around it.”

And that’s not all. Watch the video that accompanies this article for more on the restaurants and plans for the largest of the mill’s courtyard areas.

For more information on the complex, click here.