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Developer shows off historic rehabilitation of Greensboro's Printworks Mill

Developer shows off historic rehabilitation of Greensboro's Printworks Mill

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GREENSBORO — The spiral staircase ended up, as promised, in someone's living room. 

More than two years after beginning renovations on the derelict hulk of a massive mill on Fairview Street, a Wisconsin company is delivering on that and many other promises to build historic, affordable apartments and other amenities.

Alexander Co. is preparing to open the first phase of its Printworks Mill project, which will ultimately have 217 apartments, retail space and self-storage. 

The $54 million project is being built in the historic complex that had been one of the most innovative fabric-printing mills in the South, reduced to a shell with flooded floors, broken windows and a gaping roof that let in light spring snow back in March 2018.

The Madison, Wis., company, which specializes in renovation and reuse of historic buildings around the country, plans to open the first apartments in October. Many of them incorporate historic features like the spiral staircase that was one of the many unique touches in the 470,000-square-foot labyrinth of columns and graffiti-covered walls.

Now, those once-useless floors are smooth concrete, and apartments are taking shape with modern kitchens, chic industrial touches and lots of light. 

Alexander Co. will set aside 143 of the apartments for people earning less than 60% of the city's median household income of roughly $45,000 a year. The rest will be rented at "market rate," which means typical for what similar apartments cost in the city.

Other features will include indoor and outdoor community spaces, 9,000 square feet of retail space and 80,000 square feet of air-conditioned self-storage and some indoor parking. 

The company is doing the work with the help of low-income housing tax credits, federal and state historic tax credits, a tax-exempt loan and company funding. 

Hundreds of people will eventually live in the 1913 mill where hundreds once worked in Greensboro's lauded textile industry. 

According to company research, Cone Mills opened Printworks as the first textile printer in the South. In 1914 the mill had 40 employees. By 1928, the mill peaked at 200 employees printing 125,000 yards of cloth daily.

Printworks occupied a spot in the center of Cone’s prominent mill district between the Revolution and White Oak factories along Buffalo Creek.

Its corporate descendant, Cone Denim, closed the White Oak plant in 2017 after 112 years of operation. Revolution Mill was renovated for multiple uses in the past decade.

Printworks is a collection of about 11 buildings that were built in multiple stages, some connected, some free-standing.

Though it's clearly a construction site, the once-foreboding property is now shaping up with a clean brick and concrete exterior. 

There's plenty more work to be done, but the developers look forward to 2021 when they — pandemic willing — can open the outdoor saltwater swimming pool, a fitness center with locker rooms, a community room overlooking Buffalo Creek and other tenant amenities. 

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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