Coal is the culprit.
As the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Landmark Group prepared to apply for tax credits in helping to transform the former Thomson Company textile mill buildings into housing, an ongoing environmental cleanup on the site caused the company to hold off for another year.
Excavation and soil remediation work near the old boiler uncovered concerns about layers of the left over fossil fuel in the soil.
According to a memo from Landmark officials, the company still considers the project a top priority, despite the continuing cleanup.
"Like you, we have put a lot of work into this and would love to proceed but need to have these assurances first," the memo stated. "Please let us know about the Town's interest in committing to the items above, and we can put a time line on in and be in great shape for next year."
Some of the other concerns listed in the memo - which Thomson City Administrator Don Powers shared with Development Authority members during last week's meeting - include funding sources for soil remediation work and concrete solutions for the nearby railroad noise level.
In the meantime, Development Authority members agreed that the project should continue to move forward. They will continue to research possible noise suppression methods, and cleanup work near the boiler is nearing completion.
Landmark has done previous work similar to the proposal for the former Thomson Company. Landmark - which has 1,325 apartments in 41 properties across four states - recently converted a 19th century mill in Rock Hill, S.C. into apartments.
If Landmark's tax credits are approved, construction on what they will call the Thomson Mill Lofts and Village would likely be scheduled to start in December of 2008 and could be complete in spring of 2009.
The group plans to invest some $8 million into renovating the buildings and transforming them into 53 apartments between 900 and 1,100 square feet.
"We will have taken a place that was a pretty sad case and turned it into a neighborhood that is something to be proud of," former Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders said of the project late last year.
Local governments have spent more than $768,000 on the project so far and are looking for ways to make up the difference on the $1.1 million budget that could be surpassed because of the extra environmental work.