West End Mill Works opens the door for new opportunities

What do a glass blowing studio, an MMA studio and a micro distillery have in common?

If you’re in Winston-Salem, the all share one roof.

Business developers John Bryan and Dewey Anderson are the founders of the business venture titled West End Mill Works. Bryan, owner of Krankees & Single Brothers, and Anderson, president of Blackline Development, saw an opportunity for “what could be” where others just saw an area of “what was.” The project was started to rejuvenate the three historic buildings on the 1.6 acre site, and with the ribbon cutting ceremony of the former Hoots Flour Mill, the third and final phase of the 39,000 square-foot project had begun.

“This was overlooked and undervalued real estate,” Bryan said. “We’ve created value where there really wasn’t any.”

Bridge Street is quite beautiful. It is not in the middle of downtown, rather it is tucked away on a little side street on the outskirts of downtown. The old flour mill is decorated with the background of a forest, and there is even a creek nearby that adds a soothing sound to the ambiance.

The Mill and its surrounding buildings were built in the 1930’s, and the bricks that make up the building next to the mill are as diverse as the tenants that now occupy it.

“It was built during the Great Depression, so the people who built it used whatever they could find to get it done,” Bryan said. “There are at least six different kinds of bricks in there.”

Bryan said that there is not yet any company in particular that will occupy the former mill, but there are a few possibilities.

The month of May is Historic Preservation Month in Winston-Salem, and the people in the crowd were interested in hearing about why preserving the city’s history is important.

According to the Historic Research Commission (HRC) of Winston-Salem, there are three areas in the city that make up historic districts: Old Salem, Bethabara and West End.

The mission of the HRC is to promote the history and heritage of Forsyth County by retaining the character of the buildings in the districts.

If an individual or company wishes to make alterations or additions to the districts, they must first apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). The Commission meets once a month to discuss any applications, and they decide who receives a COA based on strict guidelines set up for the districts.

The history of Winston-Salem is essential for the culture, but it is the city’s history that helps mold the future.

Historic preservation tax credits in North Carolina are set to expire at the end of the year, but Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed renewal. The proposal is now before the legislature. The tax credits are up to 20 percent for rehabilitating income-producing buildings like restaurants and businesses.

In 2006, the legislative body further persuaded North Carolina residents to restore historic buildings by enacting the State Mill Rehabilitation Tax Credits.

Since 1976, 2,000 completed certified rehabilitation projects have been reviewed by the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office. This represents over $1 billion in historical investment properties.

When states issue tax incentives for revitalizing historic buildings, they do it to create jobs, improve the community and rejuvenate downtown areas.

The state is filled with abandoned tobacco, furniture and textile mills. If a city wishes to restore a mill for economic benefits, they will be able to do so while receiving a 30 to 40 percent tax credit. Gov. McCrory recently expressed his interest in keeping the tax credits alive after they expire at the end of the year. His proposed budget includes a Historic Preservation Investment Program, and it will cost the state less money than the current tax program.

Winston-Salem mayor, Allen Joines, was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday to not only show his support for the West End Mill Works project, but also for historic tax credits.

“We need to get the legislature to extend historic tax credits,” Joines said. “Jobs in our city depend on it.”

Also at the ribbon cutting ceremony was City Councilman Jeff MacIntosh, who thanked the crowd for their support of the project and their support of historic preservation. The former flour mill was open for public viewing during the ribbon ceremony, but it is currently under construction.

“I just can’t wait for this to be occupied again,” Bryan said. !