News Column

Preservation N.C. president addresses Thomasville City Council

June 17, 2014

By David Exum, The Dispatch, Lexington, N.C.

June 17--David Yemm, chairman of the Thomasville Historic Preservation Commission, invited Howard to speak to the council.

One of the examples of historic preservation that Howard presented is in Edenton, a former mill town located in the state's Inner Banks region.

Although the project took several years to complete, it used federal and state tax credits to turn a dilapidated 44-acre cotton mill village into a thriving community. The cotton mill was reconstructed into condos and blighted mill houses into new homes.

Besides revitalizing the community, the project brought much-needed jobs and tourism to the area.

"There has been study after study that shows reuse of a building is always the more environmentally sustainable option than new construction," Howard said.

Although the future use of the North Carolina Rehabilitation Tax Credit is in the state's House of Representatives for proposed budget consideration, Howard explained the tax credits weathered the harshest years of the recent economic recession.

"I want to remind you that 2007 to 2012 were recession years, to put it mildly," Howard explained. "And yet we saw nearly $700 million of historic rehab taking place in North Carolina by using the tax credits."

Another recent renovation project that is underway is in Gastonia at the site of the former Loray Mill, the site of one of the most notable labor strikes in U.S. history in 1929. The strike also garnered attention around the world because of two murders that occurred.

Loray Mill, a six-story textile mill, will be renovated for apartments. According to materials presented by Howard, the City of Gastonia estimates that the renovations would exceed $322 million over the next 30 years. Because the Loray Mill is designated a historic site by the National Register of Historic Places, it receives a 20 percent state tax credit and an additional 10 percent for its historic significance. Commercial sites also receive a 20 federal tax credit.

Howard also cited the work done by Preservation NC to rebuild the former Piedmont Leaf Co. in Winston-Salem. The former tobacco factory is now the site of 14 luxury apartments. In 2012, through the use of tax credits, the former site of Gaston Memorial Hospital was renovated and became Highland Memorial Apartments in Gastonia. The apartments are for seniors and those with severe disabilities.

"It's been phenomenal," said Howard, referring to the impact historic preservation has had in numerous communities throughout the state. "It just makes so much sense to reuse our historic buildings."

Preservation NC is involved with the Hoover House in Thomasville, a five-bedroom home at 121 Salem St. that requires a complete renovation. Built in 1878, the home falls under the tax credit guidelines because of its historic significance. The 2,600-square-foot home is selling for $27,900. The Hoover House is in the Salem Street National Register District, and a buyer could receive a 30 percent state tax credit for reconstruction purposes.

Before Howard's presentation, Yemm stressed to the city council it should strongly consider using the agency for other properties in the city.

"As you all know, there are a lot of vacant industrial properties in Thomasville," Yemm said. "There have been some great projects that Preservation North Carolina has been a part of, and every time I attend one of their meetings, I think 'why can't we do this here?' We can do it in Thomasville, we just have to have the vision for it."

While the city council took no action, Thomasville Mayor Joe G. Bennett said the presentation was very informative.

"I recognized some of those buildings of years past," Bennett said. "It's amazing what people with imagination, and of course dollars, can do to rehabilitate some of those old buildings."

David Exum can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or at Follow David on Twitter: @LexDisptachExum


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Source: Dispatch, The (Lexington, NC)

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