A Hawkinsville Success Story…. Cotton Mill Lofts and River Market Lofts
It was YEARS in the making. But persistence pays off. Sitting quietly on 7 acres along the banks of the Ocmulgee river sat an old abandoned textile mill. Once a thriving business, for years now it sat empty and was fast deteriorating. Thieves were stealing the copper wiring. The environmental hazards were many: from lead paint to the residuals from the towel coloring process used years earlier. But now it is a 40+ unit residential complex, almost full, with no environmental issues and has a (soon to be) community market attached.
Mr. Sam Way, III knew of a private development company located in Winston Salem, NC. He knew of them because they had renovated the Historic Hotel in Cordele, Ga where one of his banks is located. He called and invited them to visit Hawkinsville to see if there were any properties here they might be interested in refurbishing. They came. They looked at the Old Hawkinsville Hotel, the Old Hospital, the upstairs “apartments” in many of our downtown buildings and the old Textile Mill. While interested in all, they kept coming back to the Textile Mill. However, this was probably going to be a 10 million dollar project, so they were looking for whatever assistance the local community and/or the state could give. Brainstorming sessions between Landmark Development and the local governments were held. The Hawkinsville DDA (Downtown Development Authority) wanted one of the three buildings to utilize as a community market and set about getting grant dollars to help. Landmark was willing to develop one of the two remaining buildings and was seeing what grant dollars that the state might could help with. They first looked at Historic Tax Credits, but this did not prove viable. They finally settled on Low Income Housing Tax Credits as a means to fund this project. The City of Hawkinsville applied for and got a $500K One Georgia Grant to help with the remediation of the environmental issues. (The City also agreed to pay for the initial real estate appraisal and helped with the grant application fee. The City also committed to help with any demolition needed with in-kind contributions of city employee labor).
The DDA completed (with the help of Middle Georgia Regional Development Authority) and obtained a $500K grant as well to turn one of the buildings into a community market.
Landmark got a Feasibility study completed and was ready to submit the Low Income Housing Tax Credit application to DCA (Department of Community Affairs).
THEN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET COLLAPSED. DCA wisely ordered a NEW Feasibility study based on the CURRENT market conditions and the new study called for a much lower occupancy facility. It was back to the drawing board for all parties. But no one quit. No one gave up. Finally, a few years had gone by, but the new plans and new grant applications were submitted. DCA approved and we were on our way.
Construction began on both the Cotton Mill Lofts and the Hawkinsville River Market. In the mean time, that left one building with no use. A federal grant application for Housing was submitted to the federal government and a $1 million dollar grant was awarded there. So River Market Lofts (ten slightly more upper scale units) were now on the drawing board as well.
So what is the final outcome of much patience and persistence? We now have the completed Cotton Mill Lofts and River Market Lofts. Adding people into our downtown area to shop and live. We are in the process of trying to open the Hawkinsville River Market, to highlight and sell local produce and merchandise from middle Georgia farmers and vendors.
But at what cost? Well, the City of Hawkinsville put out around $30K in hard dollars and another $110K in matching in-kind commitments for demolition help. What did we get in return? ALOT!
A former environmental eyesore is now a thriving residential complex. The private developer is required to pay back (over 20 years) the $30K, the $110K AND the $500K grant awarded. But the great news is that the money will all go to HAWKINSVILLE, not back to the state government. So our $30K investment will reap over $600K in hard dollars in return. WOW!
AND, now we have 40+ units flushing toilets, washing dishes, and cleaning clothes on a daily basis. All of that water is being purchased from the City of Hawkinsville’s water department!
AND, all trash generated is being picked up and billed by the City of Hawkinsville’s sanitation department.
AND, now we have a multi-million dollar real estate parcel on the tax roles (paying property taxes ) rather than a couple of hundred thousand dollar depreciating abandoned textile mill.
AND, now we have proof that public-private partnerships WORK! The government can’t do it all. We don’t have the money or the resources. But we CAN assist private developers to the extent that the law allows and help everyone come out a winner.
NOTE: The Hawkinsville River Market WILL have spaces available for PEACHES TO THE BEACHES. Reserve your spot today! The Market is slated to officially open on May 1, 2014!