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Company eyes Thomson Company building for residential development

Just as the Thomson Company remains a landmark in McDuffie County, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company wants the historic portions to become a Landmark apartment building in the next few years.

The Landmark Group approached the McDuffie County Development Authority earlier this year with the idea of restoring and transforming the oldest buildings into housing, possibly to the tune of $9 million.

As "shoring-up" work on the former textile mill continues, Thomson and McDuffie County officials are taking a tour of some other Landmark projects. They will then decide whether they want to go that direction with the Thomson Company building.

"I'd say we are close to entering into some sort of agreement with Landmark to develop the older buildings on the Thomson Company property into apartments," said Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers.

The group has done previous work similar to what they have proposed in Thomson. Landmark recently converted a 19th century mill in Rock Hill, S.C. into apartments, but it's not the conversion that concerns local leaders.

"We're in the final stages of checking out their previous work, No.1, and No.2 how they manage their projects after they finish them," Mr. Powers said. "That's about as important as No. 1."

Landmark Principal Rex Todd, who is in charge of the Thomson Company project, said managing their properties is top priority for the group that has 1,325 apartments in 41 properties across four states.

"We do this very thoroughly," Mr. Todd said. "...We are hands-on. We don't flip the property to somebody else and leave town. We're steadfast neighbors. Management is a real key."

According to the company's website, downtown redevelopment is another key to its business. With local officials already a year into an endeavor aimed at sparking growth in downtown Thomson, they said the Landmark project should fit well into their plans.

"We just feel like what we could produce there as a public/private partnership with the town would be excellent for McDuffie County and the city," Mr. Todd said.

He added that the important components of making the downtown area bustle again are the three R's: redevelop, repopulate, then revitalize. He said that most places try to do those three out of order without bringing new residents in, something this project could do.

"A lot of downtowns come in and try to do the first R which is redevelopment by putting in storefronts that nobody rents, or set up industrial space next to a railroad track," Mr. Todd said. "...If you're going to revitalize an area, you need to think about repopulating an area, and that comes through housing."

Landmark will know if the tax credits needed to begin the project are approved by early fall 2007, Mr. Powers said. Mr. Todd added that the competition for those credits is stiff. Even if they are approved, construction wouldn't be complete on the project until the end of 2008, possibly early 2009.

Web posted on Thursday, October 05, 2006

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