East Spencer discusses, but makes no final decisions on redeveloping properties

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Shavonne Walker


EAST SPENCER — The board of aldermen made plans but no final decisions on what it could do to develop the Dunbar Center and other properties during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The board heard from Joe Morici of Cardno, a company that, if chosen, would work with the town to establish and implement a potential brownfields program out of the Dunbar Center.

The Center was destroyed following a December fire that investigators say was intentionally set. Although the town does not own the Dunbar Center, aldermen have expressed interest in developing the property.

The brownfields program is designed to work with towns and states to assess sites, safely clean them up and come up with redevelopment plans. There are grant funds available for the work that will go into the assessment of the property.

Morici said the town could conduct an assessment of the Dunbar Center without owning it, but it could not conduct a clean up of the property without owning it.

The board learned it could work with Cardno at no cost to them. The company would receive payment through reimbursement from the grant.

Cardno does require the town issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a brownfields consultant prior to submitting the grant application.

If the town applied for the grant by May, it would take much of the year to go through the application stages. The grant would not be awarded until late 2016, and the project wouldn’t begin implementation until October 2016.
Morici said it would take at least a year to go through the application process, selecting a consultant, and gathering community support. He also said the board should look at redeveloping other properties including some vacant businesses and industrial sites.
The board also discussed what could be done to redevelop the property at 110 S. Long St., which is currently occupied by the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Once the school system moves into its new central office, the building will be vacant. The board has said they would like to see something done with the building.
The board collaborated with a group of students from UNC-Chapel Hill who identified a potential use for the building. Through the collaboration, the board and students determined the building could be used as affordable senior housing.
The UNC School of Government established the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) and could continue the students’ work to take the town through the entire development process to include site analysis, evaluating redevelopment possibilities and identifying potential developers.
Alderwoman Tammy Corpening said she’d like to see them come up with other options and not just senior housing. Town Administrator Macon Sammons said there is no contract and there is nothing written in stone. The town could even choose another company that could help it acquire a developer.
Mayor Barbara Mallett said that although the town does not own the property, it would like to be proactive and have a plan in place to acquire the property when it becomes available. The board will decide at its May meeting whether to contract with DFI.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.