The adaptive-reuse of a former textile mill built in 1884 in Graham, N.C., is filling a hole in the heart of the city’s downtown.
The buildings, which had sat vacant for over two decades, have been redeveloped into 133 one- and two-bedroom lofts by Kansas City–based Cohen-Esrey and Winston Salem–based Third Wave Housing.
“It was holding the neighborhood down since it sat vacant for so long,” says Richard Angino, owner and managing member of Third Wave Housing.
Oneida Mill Lofts is providing much-needed affordable housing in Graham, the county seat of Alamance County, where occupancy rates were at 100% and no new apartments had been built since 1999. Now the site is serving young families to empty nesters, with 90% of the units at 60% of the area median income (AMI) and 10 at 50% of the AMI.
“By being able to come in to rejuvenate and bring the property back with curb appeal and life with people on the site, that’s what inspires me most about the work that we do,” says Tom Anderson, managing director at Cohen-Esrey.
The adaptive-reuse, which was completed in March, preserves a lot of the historic character of the buildings, leaving patina on the walls and incorporating large historic windows. Twenty-seven floor plans have been used for the 133 lofts. In addition, the construction team was able to save artifacts from the old mill, such as fire doors, ladders, and a scale, that are now on display as pieces of art around the community.
“I can still sense the history of the property through that,” says Anderson. “It has a character that is very unique to its own.”
Oneida Mill Lofts includes Energy Star-driven units, a community center with open WiFi, a game room, a fitness room, laundry rooms, a playground, and a grilling pavilion. The entire development also is accessible for all residents.
The financing of the $17 million redevelopment was complex, relying on tax-exempt bonds, 4% low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs), federal historic tax credits, and state mill tax credits.
“It’s a fragile balancing act making one of these historic-rehab projects happen,” says Angino “We have state mill credits, and federal historic and low-income housing tax credits. If you didn’t have any one of them, it would be sitting there empty right now.”
R4 Capital provided $11.6 million of equity for the three tax credits, and Citi Community Capital provided the bond financing.
Additional partners in Oneida Mill Lofts include designer Belk Architecture of Durham, engineer Rehab Engineering, and contractor Rehab Builders, both of Winston-Salem. Cohen-Esrey is serving as the property manager.
Cohen-Esrey and Third Wave are partnering on another adaptive-reuse of a historic mill in North Carolina. The team is redeveloping the former Lambeth Furniture Mill in Thomasville, N.C., into the Big Chair Lofts, which will include 139 affordable housing units. The project is under construction and slated to be completed later next year.