Spencer approves Park Plaza financing terms, awaits state approval

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2020

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — There’s a rung left to clear before Spencer can look for a contractor and begin construction on the long-awaited Park Plaza project.

The Spencer Board of Aldermen unanimously approved interim financing with Truist Bank Tuesday for $2.8 million of the $3.9 million estimated project cost. The plan is for the construction loan to be paid off by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which the town will then pay according to the terms of that contract.

The interest on the loan with Truist is 1.54%, which Mayor Jonathan Williams described as “fantastic.”

“We’re sorry it couldn’t have been lower,” Interim Town Manager Dave Treme joked.

Truist is a bank formed by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust. The two banks merged in late 2019 and the company is still using its old brands.

The next step for the project is for it to go before the Local Government Commission in December for final approval. The LGC is part of the Department of the North Carolina Treasurer and oversees finances of local government bodies like towns and counties. When a town finances a project, it must be approved by the LGC.

Once the LGC approves the project, Treme said, the town will be able to bid it out to contractors and then begin construction. The project has an estimated eight-to-10-month construction period.

Spencer budget officer John Sofley said he was in contact with the LGC on Tuesday and the body already has the town’s application.

“I’d like to, certainly, recognize the work Mr. Sofley has done, and our town attorney and all the staff,” Treme said.

Williams echoed that sentiment, thanking the staff for their work on moving the board along. He also thanked the previous board, which started the project.

“We’re right at the doorstep to break ground, and that’s something to celebrate,” Williams said.

The project is the culmination of a years-long effort to address the inadequate current town facility and the largely derelict Park Plaza that began in 2015.

The retail development became a revolving door in the 1990s and has had trouble keeping businesses in much of its space. The town plans to move its government operations into part of the facility after major renovations and leave its current building, a former railroad dormitory, behind.

The board had to cut a park out of the original project scope and “value engineer” the project to bring it within initial cost estimate after it proceeded to bid in 2019 and received responses doubling its estimate.

The board has committed to building a park as a town focal point at the property at some point in the future, but that alone would cost about $1 million.