STATUS: Revitalization ongoing
The nearly 13 acres at the front of what is commonly referred to as Taylors Mill is mid-transformation from forgotten mill property to public gathering space.
“Community engagement has driven the whole design of the place,” says co-owner and developer Lawrence Black. “It’s a controlled campus but also big enough and unique enough to have places for discovery.”
This particular collection of freestanding buildings and grounds on the mill property at 226 Mill St., separate from the monstrous mill building, has been named Southern Bleachery, which is the original name of the mill that cost $1 million to build in the early 1920s.
The baseball and basketball jerseys the former millworkers wore to represent the mill read “SOU BLY,” and Black says that shortened name, originally intended to keep lettering costs down and fit on a shirt, may become the recognized brand name for the project.
Since the announcement of the revitalization project in May 2018, plans have shifted to focus on events and programming, seeking retail and restaurant tenants who can adapt to year-round gatherings in their spaces.
The 6,100-square-foot makers market was completed last September, and with a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen designed by Bacon Bros. Public House chef Anthony Gray and COO Jason Callaway in the fourth bay, it will house a TBD restaurant. Black says he plans to make the decision shark-tank-style, with interested users proving they can handle the space as restaurant and event venue.
“This will be a unique restaurant,” says John Odom, senior adviser at Avison Young, who is on the property’s leasing team with Rakan Draz.
Currently that section is being used by Junto Coffee, which will move into its permanent location across the parking lot in the Boiler Room building when construction is completed later this year.
The Boiler Room includes the iconic smokestack and is Black’s favorite building of the four on the property.
“It has the most potential,” he says. “It’s a miniature version of the entire mill.”
A brewery, distillery, co-working space, and even a boutique hotel have been discussed for the remainder of the 8,800-square-foot building.
Landscaping is underway on the extensive grounds and includes a treehouse and former railroad bed converted into a trail, where, unlike on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, pedestrians won’t be competing with serious cyclists.
In the metal cotton warehouse called the Butler Building, rather than the previously promoted barbecue joint, Black hopes to land a raw-bar seafood restaurant for 3,500 square feet, and about 20 restrooms will be built in the remaining space to accommodate the outdoor crowds.
The 5,160-square-foot filtration plant building at the front of the property, which is to be renovated in Phase II, is the site of a window refurbishing operation Black started out of necessity to restore the old mill windows in each of the buildings.
One of the five restorers Black enlisted was a former security guard for the mill when it was in operation, he says. Another is a neighbor who’s lived on Mill Street for 60-some years and wandered over asking if he could help.