If anyone has detected faint rumblings coming from Mount Airy lately, it might be because some movement is occurring regarding the eagerly anticipated Spencer’s redevelopment project.
Efforts to find new, economically viable uses for the former industrial property — and create jobs — were last discussed publicly during a special meeting/workshop held in May on the project.
Citizens were allowed to comment at that time on the land (bought by the city government in 2014), with some expressing frustration over delays in actual work beginning on the sprawling downtown property that then had attracted the attention of two prospective developers.
Fast-forwarding to this week, Mayor David Rowe has announced that a special meeting of the city council will be held Friday at the Municipal Building relating to the Spencer’s effort.
A notice issued for that meeting states it will be a closed session “relating to economic-development incentives that may be offered by the public body (the council) in negotiations.”
The issue of incentives the municipality might offer developers of former Spencer’s property was a key concern during the May special meeting/workshop.
This led to an agreement being reached by consensus among the city commissioners to donate land and buildings to developers as an incentive, along with possible investments of public funds for the project — at least for streets and other infrastructure needs.
“We are continuing to refine infrastructure cost estimates and discuss elements of the project with developers who have expressed an interest in the buildings,” City Manager Barbara Jones responded in recent days when asked about progress being made on the Spencer’s redevelopment.
Mum on developers
On Tuesday, Mayor Rowe was asked if this week’s discussion relates to requests by any particular developer(s) or would involve the establishment of general guidelines for incentives.
“How about if I said both?” Rowe replied.
“We have some specific developers, but this is for all of them,” he said of the incentive framework city officials will discuss.
“Once we have a framework for development, we will make that information public,” added Jones, the city manager.
Rowe declined to disclose if any more developers had come forward besides the two already in the fold. The mayor said he would prefer to answer that question after Friday’s meeting.
The board of commissioners will be briefed on recent negotiations at the meeting, according to Jones.
During the session in May, DeWitt F. “Mac” McCarley, a Charlotte attorney and redevelopment expert hired by Mount Airy to facilitate the process, pledged to mount a vigorous effort to recruit more developers for former Spencer’s sites.
One of the two developers now on board envisions a four-star hotel/banquet center and the other upscale apartments. Both would like to break ground next spring, McCarley has said in outlining his plans to seek other suitors for additional portions of the 9.5-acre site.
Infant apparel production ceased there in 2007.
Rowe said that after Friday’s closed meeting, the commissioners could move to an open session and vote on an incentives proposal — with city officials earlier saying the costs involved would be recouped by property tax revenues generated from developed sites.
“That’s what I would like to do,” the mayor said of such action, while acknowledging that the commissioners will have the final say on this.
In an earlier discussion in late June, Rowe assured that the redevelopment effort was progressing, although the public hasn’t seen earth being turned.
“We’re continuing to try to work this out — it’s a complicated situation, of course.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.