HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — If there’s any doubt David Congdon loves his hometown, look no further than an area off West English Road in High Point, just a few yards from the outfield of the city’s new downtown baseball stadium.
It’s a place in which he’s put both his heart and his pocketbook.
More than 80 years ago, it was a bustling Adams-Millis hosiery factory complex.
Today, it’s Congdon Yards. Congdon, through his family’s foundation, is pumping $40 million into it.
But, he says, it’s at a crossroads. More on that in a few paragraphs. First, a little more history.
I first profiled Congdon as a Newsmaker in 2008.
Back then, he was president and CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line, one of the world’s largest trucking and logistics companies now based in Thomasville.
Congdon’s grandparents founded the company in Virginia around the same time the High Point Adams-Millis factory was firing on all cylinders: 1934. Congdon’s father, Earl, moved Old Dominion to High Point in 1962. And this is where Congdon did most of his growing-up.
Today, Old Dominion has a new CEO, but Congdon remains as the company’s executive board chairman.
“We’re blessed,” he told me in a recent virtual interview from his home on the North Carolina coast. “We’ve had a very successful company. It’s all because of Old Dominion and the success of OD that we have the philanthropic dollars that we have today.”
And today, much of that money’s being spent on the development of Congdon Yards, which Congdon purchased in 2019 at a time when the city’s new baseball stadium was generating a lot more interest in High Point’s downtown — which normally bustled just twice a year during the fall and spring furniture markets.
“We felt like downtown High Point needed more than just a ballfield in order to create destination,” he said.
Today, Congdon Yards consists of two main buildings: “Plant 7” and “The Factory.”
The Factory is primarily an event/entertainment venue.
A large multi-room area on the top floor people can rent for events like weddings and parties is called “The Loft.” At least two restaurants are planned elsewhere in the building.
Plant 7 is what drew Congdon’s interest in the first place via his work with the local chamber of commerce.
“Some of the members of our chamber got involved in those organizations that were studying downtown transformations across the country, “ he said. “We wanted to crank something up and we thought about co-working spaces.”
Co-working is a concept in which workers of different companies share office space — allowing cost savings and convenience. And this is what most of Plant 7 is.
For instance, the consulting firm Change Often has office space in the building. And not too far away are the brand new offices of the High Point Community Foundation. And this isn’t all.
On the first floor, a place called “The Generator” makes industrial-grade woodworking machinery (it really looks like a modern furniture factory) accessible to furniture designers, makers and architects.
And “The Commons”— with all its furniture made by local companies — and its “Lil’s Coffee Bar” (named after Congdon’s grandfather) — is a community gathering space with free Wi-Fi that’s open to everyone.
Now to that “crossroads” part of the story.
“I would say we’re probably at least two to three years before we break ground on the event hall,” Congdon told me.
Yes, he wants to build an event hall/convention-like center in the parking lot (which he owns) next to The Factory. But can’t, he says, until High Point solves what he calls its “hotel problem.”
He describes it as a lack of upper-end hotel rooms in the city’s core.
The Red Lion (formerly The Radisson) Hotel currently closed and under renovation on Main Street isn’t enough.
“If we build an event hall and are hosting events at Congdon Yards, we really need something more like one block away or part of our property, not five blocks away.”
So, like the “take action” person he is, Congdon has purchased property across English Road from Congdon Yards at the site of the old Paul Robert Showroom. This is where he’d like to see a 120-140-room hotel. But he’s quick to point out he’s not a hotel developer.
But there is a team in place working on it. Congdon may eventually get a little more involved in that team’s work. He’s just not sure yet.
“We have some folks who are pulling the trigger now,” he said. “They are working with Marriott Hotels. (But) the brand selection is not finalized.”
So, in the meantime, Congdon will focus his attention on Congdon Yards, which the combined Business High Point/Chamber of Commerce manages, leases for $1 a year and is in the process of moving its headquarters into.
In other words, his love affair with his hometown continues.
For more information on Congdon Yards, click here.
For more information on Business High Point/Chamber of Commerce, click here.
For more information on Old Dominion Freight Line, click here.