Once one of the largest mills in Greenville County, Judson Mill had been spinning raw cotton into yarn for more than a century. But when Milliken and Company listed the property for sale in 2015 and closed operations, everyone knew change was coming.
The property was purchased last month with plans to convert the 36-acre mill into a live-work-play mixed-use district. Judson District will include 204 apartments, more than 215,000 square feet of office space, 141,000 square feet of light industrial/flex, and 8 to 12 acres of retail along Highway 123 (Easley Bridge Road), near St. Francis Hospital. It is being developed by a joint venture between North Carolina-based developer Belmont Sayre and Chicago-based Three Corners Development.
The plans are ambitious. The first phase will be workforce housing – 204 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, ranging from 565 to 2,200 square feet. “We try to not define it [workforce housing] too much. The apartments will be good quality – not quite luxury, but not low-income either,” says Ken Reiter, president of Belmont Sayre. “It’ll be attainable housing for people like civil servants and first responders who work in the downtown area and want to live in the neighborhoods they participate in. It’s a missing component of downtown Greenville’s housing strategy.” Rental rates have not yet been set.
In subsequent phases, Reiter is expecting to attract grocery, pharmacy, and retail to the development, something much needed in what Greenville has previously defined as a “food desert.” Office and light industrial users will bring the work piece to the project. Selected outlying buildings will be demolished, but most buildings on the property will be redeveloped.
Belmont Sayre specializes in these types of large urban infill historic redevelopment projects in neighborhoods that are on the fringe of downtown areas. The company has tackled Mill 800 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and American Tobacco in Durham, N.C., both similar to Judson District, Reiter says. “It’s a core competency of ours that not many developers want to do. There’s a lot of impact you can bring to a neighborhood.”
Elements of the mill will be incorporated into the new development. “There are tons of old textile equipment, old scales. We absolutely will incorporate those back into the design,” Reiter says. Some may be turned into furniture; some may be woven into the landscape design. A library or heritage center where people can learn about the history of the mill and neighborhood is also planned.
“These large projects are a challenge, because of their scale,” Reiter says. “Because the property is so large, it may seem sometimes like we’re not doing much.”
Another challenge will be overcoming the perception of Judson not being a preferred neighborhood. “That’s not our perception. It’s not downtown, but downtown is getting expensive,” Reiter adds. “We’ll be competitively priced, and we have larger spaces and parking.”
The deal came together like many other Greenville projects. A group from Greenville made a presentation in Durham a few years ago. Reiter attended, traded business cards, and made connections. When North Carolina changed legislation on how developers can use state tax credits, Reiter began looking at South Carolina opportunities. CommunityWorks, a Greenville nonprofit financial organization, along with CBRE associate Nick Hollstegge, who represented Belmont Sayre and Three Corners in the mill’s purchase, helped pull everything together. This will be Belmont’s first project in the Upstate.
Belmont Sayre will be teaming with Three Corners Development as co-developers. Three Corners has a construction arm of its business, and the two companies have worked together on several previous projects. The companies will be utilizing historic and new market tax credits, along with the Bailey Bill incentive, which locks in the property’s pre-rehabilitation tax assessment value for 20 years. Recently, the property was rezoned to a Planned Development by the county, and the first phase is currently in design. Financing is in place with plans to begin construction in the second or third quarter of 2018 with an opening date of third quarter 2019.
Pre-leasing on the office and industrial space has also begun with prices in the low- to mid-teens for office space. “We’ve seen interest already from a wide range of business services, office users, and marketing firms who like the cool, creative loft-type space,” Hollstegge says. (CBRE will be handling the leasing of the office and industrial space.)
“The developers love the story behind the property. These mill communities were the original live-work-play communities. Now, they’re breathing life back into it. We’re hoping Judson Mill has a great next chapter,” Hollstegge adds.
Amenities at Judson District Apartments are likely to include:
- Club room with full-service kitchen
- Lounge with gas fireplace
- Game room
- Media theater room
- “Work from home” spaces
- Business print center
- Fitness center
- Yoga studio
- Resident lounges on all floors
- Outdoor kitchen with gas grill
- Garden lounge space
- Fire pits
- 20-meter, four-lane lap pool with sun shelf
- Hot tub spa
- Dog wash
- Bike shop and storage