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City agrees to help subsidize co.’s plans for Lakeside Mill renovation


A company that transforms recycled materials into luxury furnishings has approached the city of Burlington about a plan to refurbish a vacant textile mill to serve as its corporate headquarters.

NOA Living, a specialist in the trendy business of “upcycling,” has asked Burlington’s municipal leaders to help it resurrect the now-desolate Lakeside Cotton Mill by sponsoring an application to North Carolina’s Department of Commerce for funds to defray the expense of this project.

The company’s representatives formally pitched this proposal to Burlington’s city council on Tuesday and ultimately received an enthusiastic response, although the council has temporarily withheld its approval in order to solicit feedback from the general public.

UPDATE: See end of story for council’s action on Thursday morning, March 4, 2021.

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NOA Living was aided in its presentation to the council by the city’s own economic developer Peter Bishop, who hailed the company’s vision for the abandoned textile mill, which is located along Lakeside Avenue about a mile north of Burlington’s city hall.

[Story continues below photographs.]

Lakeside Cotton Mill (in 2021): Lafayette Holt, who founded Lakeside Mill in 1892, helped design other textile mills in the county and also promoted steam engines to power the textile mills, rather than having to rely on water power, according to a 1999 history of the county written by Elon University history professor Carole Troxler and historical museum executive director Bill Vincent.

“What NOA Living is talking about doing is upcycling the Lakeside Mill,” Bishop said at the meeting, which took place over the Zoom teleconferencing platform in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “This building is proposed to get a full makeover from NOA Living to be their new headquarters.”

In order to follow through on its plans, NOA Living intends to seek a building reuse grant for $200,000 from the N.C. Department of Commerce. Bishop told the council that the city would ultimately serve as the grant’s administrator and would be obligated to chip in a $10,000 match if the commerce department signs off on the company’s application.

Should the company succeed in its grant application, NOA Living has pledged to invest at least $3.9 million into upgrades and equipment at Lakeside Cotton Mill. The company also promises to establish a workforce of at least 24 people over two years and estimates an average salary of $51,350 a year for these employees.

Bishop told the council that the city has previously had good experiences with the other building reuse grants it has sponsored. He went on to remind the council about two earlier subsidies, which have allowed a manufacturer called Flexaust to revamp a facility along Tucker Street and National OnDemand to refurbish an old Bank of America building in Burlington’s downtown business district.

The council heard some additional details about NOA Living’s endeavor from three of the company’s principals. Sam Nehme, the CEO of this family-owned manufacturing firm, told the council that he expects to create some “really exciting products” with the 24-person operation that he hopes to set up within the vacant textile mill. Meanwhile, Fida Nehme touted the positive contribution that the mill’s redevelopment would have for the city.

Eva Sutton, the company’s creative director, added that she and her colleagues see great promise in this storied industrial complex, which appears on the National Historic Register of Historic Places and includes structures that date to the 1890s.

“All those old mill buildings need to be kept,” Sutton declared during Tuesday’s council meeting. “The seller actually wants to demolish them, and we don’t want him to do that.”

NOA Living’s plans for the old cotton mill drew a warm reception from councilman Harold Owen, who declared that he “sees nothing but wonderful results” from the company’s vision. Meanwhile, councilman Jim Butler shared his delight at the prospective marriage of a historical landmark and a cutting edge business. Burlington’s mayor Ian Baltutis was equally effusive in his praise of the mill’s proposed renovation.

“It is a beautiful structure that needs some love,” he said, “which is nestled right near our downtown.”

After he and his colleagues had made their remarks, Baltutis proceeded to open a public hearing on NOA Living’s proposal, which drew nary a peep from the general public.

In the absence of any feedback from residents, Burlington’s city attorney David Huffman advised the council resume its hearing on a future date in order to give the public more time to weigh in on this project. Huffman added that state law allows local governments to continue hearings in this manner when the proceedings are conducted remotely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In this case, he urged the council to resume the public hearing at a special-called meeting on Thursday because “time is of the essence” for NOA Living to turn in its grant application.

The council agreed to reconvene at 9:00 a.m. Thursday (March 4) to resume its hearing over Zoom.

UPDATE: City council meeting from Thursday morning, March 4:

During a special-called meeting Thursday morning (March 4), the council unanimously voted to sponsor this application for $200,000 on behalf of NOA Living, which specializes in “upcycling” old fabrics into high-end carpets and upholstery.

Under the terms of the grant, the city of Burlington would have to administer the proposed subsidy and chip in a $10,000 match toward the cost of the mill’s renovation. The company, in turn, has pledged to add $3.9 million in assessed tax value to the now-vacant industrial site and hire 24 workers over two years with an average salary of $51,350.

Other March 4 edition Burlington news coverage from The Alamance News/

Rec director recommends against adding disc golf to city’s municipal golf course:

Council not interested in mayor’s suggestion to ditch traditional auditing firm:

City officials outline increased costs from allowing chickens in city backyards:

Grant for new firefighters will ultimately cost city taxpayers – but not for three years, so council gives go-ahead for city to pursue grant:

And from Feb. 26 online story: Burlington police seek public’s help in finding nine suspects:

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