With approval by local government likely, the four old Southern Mill buildings at the far end of Oneta Street (off Chase Street) will eventually become “workforce housing” with a unique historic character marketed to artists and local professionals who may want to live near downtown—not particularly to students. The now-dilapidated brick buildings once manufactured denim and work clothes on “thousands of spindles and 180-plus looms” and housed some of the 250 employees on-site, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. The complex was built in 1902 and closed in 1998. Since that time, plans to convert the buildings (some fire-damaged) into apartments have gone through multiple versions.
Current plans—approved by ACC planning commissioners and headed for ACC commissioners in November for an exemption to allow a microbrewery in one of the buildings—would retain much of the historic character of the mill buildings. Construction could begin next year.
Although the 152 apartments will be modern, Scott Haines of local planning firm Williams and Associates told the planning commission that tenants likely to rent such spaces “are more interested in the character of the space than what’s new and improved.” A view of structural beams, for example, could be retained in the new apartments, he said. “They’ve got that real mill feel to them.”
Both the state of Georgia and the National Park Service have agreed to grant the Atlanta developers behind the project tax credits for developing the historic property, without which redevelopment would have been unlikely, Haines told Flagpole. The same developers renovated Macon’s Lamar Lofts apartments, also with tax credits, and retained much of that building’s historic character and texture.
The Athens mill apartments could be part of the developing “artistic-industrial” character of Chase Street just inside the Loop, Haines suggested. “It could be a very cool destination.”
Also recommended for approval by planning commissioners last week: design flexibility to allow expansion of the downtown Holiday Inn into a portion of that hotel’s existing parking lot, which could include a new parking deck.
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