N&R article misses the point

On Monday I received a call from Revolution Mill Studios, LLC.  Late in the day I met with managing partner Jim Peeples to hear what was concerning him.

Having little time to write and post about what I discovered, I contacted the N&R to see if they might be interested in covering the story that I heard from Peeples.  They did cover it, in today’s edition, but not in a way that will likely help Peeples hold the City of Greensboro at bay from possibly destroying a National Registry property.

Reporter Jim Schlosser did a fine job of telling how Peeples’ company is acquiring the three old Cone mills on Yanceyville Street.  Revolution, Olympia and Print Works mills are being assembled into a 75 acre complex housing over 1 MILLION sq. ft. of commercial and residential space.  But he stopped short of doing what needed to be done.  Namely: Get the City to listen to reason.

The city is currently replacing the North Buffalo Creek sewer outfall.  This huge, 54″, pipeline upgrade is designed to stop many of the sewage over-flow spills that occur when we get a whole bunch of rain.  (think Latham Park).  Problem is, the designers and engineers for the project decided to run the pipe 8 feet away from the corner of the old Revolution Mill warehouse.  The 180,000 sq ft building currently houses a self storage building.  But the plans are to convert it into condominiums.

That is, if it is still standing after all of the blasting and digging it will take to create the 30′ deep trench that the city is digging.  I did mention that that trench is EIGHT FEET away from the corner of the old building, didn’t I?  revolution-mill-3.jpgThis photo was taken from the centerline of the planned 30′ deep trench and shows how close the trench will be to the corner of the building.

Peeples reported to me that neither the City nor the contractor has accepted liability or responsibility for the likely damage that will occur once the blasting gets going.  And damage is likely.

That warehouse is a 1920′s engineering marvel.  As the photos show, the structure is built upon concrete piers that allows Buffalo Creek to meander underneath it. (click for larger image) Although the stucture appears precariously constructed, those reinforced columns are as solid as the day they were poured nearly 100 years ago.

revolution-mill-2.jpgDynamite and deep trenching could alter all of that and cause the building to become unstable.  So the folks who are investing over $130 MILLION dollars to save those old buildings are asking the City to move the trench to another location on their property.revolution-mill-1.jpg

Peeples has met with Asst. city Manager Ben Brown and some of the Water Resource folks, but so far he hasn’t been able to convince them that dynamite blasting within eight feet of a 100 year old building is just not a good idea.  Especially if no one is liable for the damage.

Schlosser’s is a fine article about the great development that is going on over on Yanceyville Street.  But it missed the point of concern for the developers of the $130M mill complex (Who, by the way, aren’t asking the city for any “incentives”).  This line from the article gives a hint as to the problem: “…If it can work out a sewer line problem with the city, the studios would convert the building to condos or apartments.”

What the article doesn’t mention that unless that “sewer line problem” is resolved and the location of the outfall line is moved, the building may fall down and never get developed.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted June 21, 2007 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Great post, Hogg. This is why you need to volunteer to lead a workshop or how-to at ConvergeSouth and show the rest of the world how to blog. (nudge, nudge)

  2. Posted June 21, 2007 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    There are reporters who feel all right writing what is essentially an advocacy story — a story that starts from an assumption (this building should be developed, the problem with the city should be worked out) and makes it its mission to get people to “listen to reason.”

    Some reporters see this as activism, not journalism.

    I’m not sure where Jim falls on this one — but it’d be worth asking.

    What I like about the blogosphere is the way in which you are able to point people to Jim’s article — which is a good description of what’s happening, if not an argument for it being resolved one way or another — and then make the argument yourself.

    It’s a newspaper’s job to give people the information, the tools with which they can make up their minds and take action. The editorial page is a good place for arguments and action, as well — but it seems (from your description and from my reading) like Jim’s article did what it could do in getting the info out there but stopped short of pushing a course of action one way or another.

  3. Posted June 21, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Great pictures along with another outstanding post, David. Thanks for the information.

  4. Brenda Bowers
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Just can not understand why Greensboro is Hell bent on destroying their heritage when other cities all over the country are finding ways to use their older buildings. Lowell, Mass. is a showplace in what they have done with their old textile factories. Roanoke, Virginia is reviving whole sections of the older city by helping people purchase and restore the older homes. River front cities all over the country are making good use of the old warehouses (Savannah, Ga. is a show place of renovation.) Greensboro simply tears down. I don,t get it. BB

  5. Posted June 21, 2007 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    The old Revolution Mill is fast becoming a revolution in arts and technology like the world has never seen. That is, if city leaders literally don’t blow up the concrete foundation supporting the $130 million dollar investment that has been made by private investors who are bending over backwards to accommodate a city that refuses to listen and refuses responsibility for their actions.

    If dynamiting the earth just eight feet from the foundation of a historic structure is a good idea then why is it neither the City of Greensboro nor the contractors who are doing the work are willing to accept responsibility if something should go wrong?

  6. meblogin
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Does the building owner not have liability insurance to cover his investment? If so, then the burden of risk will be shouldered by his insurance company and my guess is that if the building is damaged as a result of this proposed construction….then the insurance company will sue the responsible party. I assume the city has an easement that permits them to do as they please. Was the building built within the easement against the advice of the city way back when?? ….what is the city’s version of this story?

  7. Posted June 21, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I spoke to district 2 councilwoman Goldie Wells about this today. She said she’d be touring the site in the next couple of days, and would speak to the water and sewer staff.

    According to Preservation NC, the city has been very helpful with zoning and inspections issues at this site. Now let’s get the water and sewer staff on board.

  8. dhoggard
    Posted June 22, 2007 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Good points Joe. I probably should have entitled the post “N&R Article misses MY point”. As I noted – Jim’s was a good article.

    Meb,
    Yes there is an easement. It was granted by the owner of the building right before Peeples’ group put it under option. Just a few months ago.

    According to Peeples, the city says the pipeline contractor takes on the libility and the pipeline contractor believes the city is on the line. That confusion is part of what is giving Peeples’ group so much trepidation.

    The developer’s position is simple, “just move the trench north”. Of course there is really nothing “simple about it.

    Perhaps Peeples and his staff will weigh in here.

    Wharton – That is good news. Goldie is one of the few true preservationists we have on Council in my estimation.

  9. Benjamin Briggs
    Posted June 22, 2007 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    This is a difficulut situation that should have been planned a lot better. I am sure the developer has insurance…but if the building is damaged or made unusable by blasting a deep trench within a few feet of the foundation I imagine it will be the city of Greensboro that will end up paying in two ways…both in damages for planning such a nail-biter, and in loss of having a much needed $130 million renewal of a massive industrial property. These developers, with no incentives asked for to-date, have other properties across the state to develop. The city should be cautious in how it treats this specific situation. Be encouraging, not discouraging.

  10. Posted June 23, 2007 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    My studio is in the Nussbaum Center, and I can say firsthand how beautuful that building is if no one has ever seen it. my clients are always impressed with my location. In addition, one of my fellow art graduates from GUilford College, Maggie Bamberg, did her entire senior thesis project in that mill, photographing the decrepit parts as a memorial to what was a vital part of North Carolina’s economy and history.

    If this building is damaged by negligence o anyone’s part, Ifor one will be enraged, as willmany other hard working Greensboro small business owners.

    Greensboro would do well to NOT ignore this part of it’s constituency!

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] N&R article misses the point [...]

  2. By Hogg’s Blog » Pipeline vs Mill, cont’d on July 27, 2007 at 6:38 am

    [...] they aren’t blasting… “Revolution Mill Studios …has persuaded the city to delay blasting 8 feet from a 1915 mill warehouse. …Engineers for the city believe no harm will result. Revolution Mill’s engineers say [...]

  3. [...] blog posts to the level of an official inquiry or action.  Namely this one (Willow Oaks) and this one (Sewer pipeline).  This one (EEOC ruling) has been much discussed but didn’t originate on [...]