6/20/2019 – Lenoir mills gain landmark status

Posted on: June 20th, 2019 by admin


June 20, 2019


By Virginia Annable
Jun 20, 2019 12:00 AM

Three former industrial buildings in Lenoir have been declared historic landmarks, pushing along a project to turn the buildings into apartments and commercial space.


The Lenoir Cotton Mill/Blue Bell plant, the Lenoir Depot freight station and the former J.M. Bernhardt Mill/Steele Cotton Mill buildings, all off College Avenue near Underdown Avenue, were approved as local historic landmarks by the Lenoir City Council on Tuesday night.


The designation allows for tax breaks for work on the properties, which are slated for rehabilitation projects by developers including Yorke Lawson and Tom Niemann, who bought the Blue Bell building and train depot last October.


Lawson said Tuesday that the Blue Bell building will be the first to be renovated and will be market rate apartments. The train depot will be next, and may be made into space for small businesses, he said, though plans are not final. The J.M. Bernhardt building will be last since it has the most damage and will require the most work to fix, Lawson said.


The project has been in the works for three years, since Lawson and Neimann were directed to Lenoir while in search of old mill buildings to rehabilitate, he said. This historic landmark designation is one of the last steps toward getting the project fully funded.


“This is a helpful and integral part of all the pieces we need to make this happen,” he said.


The designation allows the building owners a 50 percent property tax deferment, meaning they only have to pay half of the city and county property taxes as long as the historic integrity of the buildings is in tact.


Under the designation, the Lenoir Historic Preservation Commission, which is made up of the members of the Lenoir Planning Board, will review and approve all of the renovation plans before work is done.


Lawson said the developers’ mission is preservation and community development.


Planning Director Jenny Wheelock said the rehabilitations will be a major step in the right direction for the area and the community, and the addition of market rate apartments would help in the city’s efforts to bring more rental property.


“This a tool to help that progress,” she said. “I don’t think this is the silver bullet,” but it’s an important milestone.


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.


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