Burlington hopes old textile factory will spark economic growth

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Some of the bricks are eroding on the old May Hoisery Mill in Burlington from the constant waves of time, but that will soon change.

"It's the only textile mill that's substantially left in the downtown area," said Burlington Senior Planner Daniel Shoffner.

The mill was once a prime example of the textile industry that thrived in North Carolina in the Piedmont Triad. The large industrial windows used to show whistling workers, now display a thick layer of brown-caked dust, if they aren't broken already.

Herbert Coleman, CEO of Virginia-based Clachan Properties, wants to bring to life a vision he's already executed in Winston-Salem, with the Winston Factory Lofts, turning the mill on the fringe of downtown Burlington into modern apartments.

"We're hoping this does more than just bloom residential downtown," Shoffner said. "We're hoping this kicks off more development."

The developer passed its final hurdle last week in a long process to acquire the property and achieve historical landmark status.

"The building is fantastic, the history is there and that model's been successful," Burlington Economic Development Director Peter Bishop said.

The mill will be the home of about 70 market rate one or two-bedroom apartments, with loft setups on the top floor. Coleman is hoping to preserve a lot of the historical architecture, like exposing the original brick.

"If they make it apartments I think that would be a wonderful way to revitalize downtown," said Kelli Seace, who works at Lab Corp just across the street. She loved the idea of modern apartments within walking distance of downtown.

The city is hoping this will be a major step, creating a ripple effect in building a more vibrant downtown.

"You get that by having people who are living in downtown. Who are there shopping, commuting and walking." Bishop said.

Coleman hopes to break ground early 2018, and anticipates the construction will take about a year. He says, like any project, complications could certainly delay an expected opening in 2019.