New life for old mills

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ELIZABETH POWELL | CONTRIBUTOR

Pace Burt gets his hands dirty working for the success of his loft complexes – and the communities around them

 

In the 1980s, a 20-something Pace Burt was on site at one of his first construction projects when a complete stranger approached with a gift: a brand-new pair of shoes.

After passing by the construction site day after day and observing Burt operating front-end loaders shoeless and shirtless, the stranger had taken pity on him. He would never have guessed that Burt simply preferred freedom from the confinement of clothing – and rather than being an employee, he was the employer.

Today, fully clothed in jeans and a plaid button-up shirt with hair that falls in tight spirals to just below his ears, Burt laughs at his “no shirt, no shoes” phase. While that phase has long passed, his work ethic remains, and Pace Burt seems a personification of his properties – intuitive, avant-garde and wildly successful.

 

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Anticipating trends

 

From Albany, Ga., the self-described “awful student” left college after one year and discovered his true calling in real estate.

Burt grew up with four sisters and has been married for 28 years, with three daughters of his own. Surrounded by women, he credits them as his greatest influencers in design and décor. Recognizing the importance of details, he keeps a close eye on the design of his projects, he said.

“With $100 million of construction going on, I still pick out the toilets, tile, carpet, cabinets, fans and everything else,” he said. “I’ve found that I have a niche to anticipate trends and build what people want.”

 

“Something special” in Greenville

 

Burt first came to Greenville in 2003 and purchased the Monaghan Mill, better known today as The Lofts of Greenville – his first of many renovations of historical properties.

PaceBurt_article1“I could feel that something special was going to happen in Greenville,” he said. “They had just implemented the new tax credit to encourage renovation of textile mills, and they increased the property tax freeze. Without these state incentives, the numbers would not have worked.”

Fast-forward 12 years, and The Lofts of Greenville is 100 percent occupied and pre-leased. Burt is now on his fifth mill and latest project: West Village Lofts at Brandon Mill.

Just two miles down the road from The Lofts of Greenville, West Village Lofts are scheduled to open in May 2016. The property will feature spacious floor plans, “high-quality” finishes and Haiku fans in every unit.

 

Investing in amenities

 

Burt takes an avant-garde approach to amenities and never stops investing to improve his properties with unique features.

“You’ve got to have fresh amenities,” he said. “We just opened a yoga studio at The Lofts. I gave our space to MAYA Movements Arts for free to give residences another amenity on site.”

At West Village Lofts, tenants will have access to a wine cellar and tasting room, bowling alleys, and a virtual driving range. But perhaps its most notable feature is Burt’s partnership with the Greenville Center for Creative Arts (GCCA), to strengthen the local arts community. Leased for $1 annually, Burt made the old Dunlop building available to the GCCA for the next four years until they purchase it for a pre-negotiated under-market price.

 

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Hard work

 

Burt attributes his success to his hands-on leadership style and open communication with his team. He walks each property once a month and visits new projects every two weeks. When something needs to be done, he leads by example.

“For the last two days, I’ve been in Asheville,” he said. “I went to a nursery, bought $4,000 of shrubbery for three buildings and literally did all the manual labor with my employees just to get it done. Once they realize the owner is working just as hard as you are, it’s motivating.”

What sprouted from shirtless and shoeless beginnings has grown into Burt Development, with properties ranging from Mobile, Ala., to Asheville, N.C., and three properties thriving in the Upstate. The sky is the limit as to where Burt will strike next, he said.

“I want to do a project with one of those cranes like you see downtown,” he said. “Everything I’m doing now I can get to with a forklift. Maybe one day.”

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The Mill Man’s project status

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Pace Burt’s developments in the Upstate include:

 

The Lofts of Greenville

 

The $18 million, 190-unit apartment complex in the former Monaghan Mill is 100 percent occupied and pre-leased.

 

Mayfair Mill Lofts (Spartanburg)

 

The $8 million, 107-unit lot complex in a renovated 1922 mill building is 100 percent occupied and pre-leased.

 

West Village Lofts at Brandon Mill (Greenville)

 

There are currently no roadblocks, said Burt. Two-thirds of the mill are framed. Phase 1 (67 units) on track to open in May 2016. Phase 2 projected to open early Fall 2016; phase 3 projected to open late Fall 2016.

 

Arcadia (Spartanburg)

 

Still in design phase with projected start mid-2016 and finishing in 2017. Arcadia will have approximately 110 units.

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Reaching out

 

Pace Burt’s development projects often include initiatives aimed at helping the community around it to grow. Some of what he’s working on in the Upstate’s mill villages include:

 

Parkland

 

Burt is donating 6 acres at a value of $1.2 million dollars to Greenville County to create a park for the Monaghan Mill neighborhood, he said. “We own the property but we don’t utilize it, so they are going to create a park for the neighborhood and they are also going to expand their elderly community center that the county runs. So that’s something that we have stepped up to the plate to get done.”

 

Creating green space

 

Burt and Lofts at Greenville manager Kelly Beasley have been involved in neighborhood gatherings, doing landscape work and planting trees, and Burt hopes to do the same at Brandon Mill, he said. “If we can put some money together, I’d like to buy a few of the older mill houses and have them removed to create some green space for the neighborhood.”

 

Loan opportunities

 

Still in the planning phases, “there is an opportunity for us to help kick-start smaller businesses to come into the area,” Burt said, with an eye toward incorporating them into Brandon Mill. “We have a large open area inside the building where we would probably, at a very inexpensive rate, get the food truck businesses to come in.”

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