ULI members took a field trip to Rocky Mount Mills to learn about the opportunities and challenges of placemaking on the outer edges of the Triangle from an expert panel representing the diverse players in the project, including:
- Michael Goodmon (Capitol Broadcasting Company)
- Councilman Reuben Blackwell (Rocky Mount City Council)
- John White (NC Department of Commerce Legislative Affairs )
- Dan Gerlach (Golden Leaf Foundation)
- Moderated by David Joyner (Joyner Media & Strategies)
The 160-acre site includes an historic 68-home mill house neighborhood and a massive old cotton mill being repurposed for mixed-use residential, office, and event space on the banks of the beautiful Tar River. Although the setting is unparalleled, the town’s demographic decline and private market studies had previously discouraged investment and redevelopment. However, as Michael Goodmon stated, he and his father fell in love with the property and forged ahead with faith in hidden potential and material support from city leaders.
The panel candidly discussed key success factors and challenges for such a risky redevelopment, highlighting the importance of historic tax credits, patient capital, an ability to invest for the long-term, and constant communication among all parties. And as the project begins to deliver, people are realizing that Rocky Mount’s location within an hours’ drive of Raleigh means it can be a bedroom community for a growing Triangle region. Challenges, however, have not been insignificant. Rocky Mount, like so many southern towns, has a long history of ups and downs with socio-economic issues, race relations, and access to education and opportunity. But project and city leaders are determined to ensure the investment in Rocky Mount Mills will be a tide to lift all boats.
Capitol Broadcasting remains bullish about the catalytic impact that the Mills redevelopment possesses to create both a gathering place for the entire community and an attractive option for corporate recruitment and expansion right off the major highways of 64 and 95. They’ve unearthed hidden potential in some creative and highly successful ways before—nearly two decades ago at American Tobacco Campus in Durham.