Salisbury to work with outside partners on Kesler Mill development project

Published 12:05 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council has agreed for City Manager Jim Greene to enter into an agreement with Development Finance Initiative to begin the pre-development process for the old Kesler Mill site.

Development Finance Initiative, or DFI, is a program of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government that “partners with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development expertise.”

DFI, who had representatives present at the city council meeting, will undertake the responsibility of gathering data and opinions from local residents and property owners, to find out the best project that will be feasible where the Kesler Mill, located on Park Ave., once was. The city has allocated $72,950 for the work, an amount that was already listed in last year’s budget.

“That’s what these guys are going to help us do, is to try and identify an appropriate development pattern like what uses, the intensity of the uses, all of that. Then they’ll try and help us identify a private development partner who can come and develop the site according to the specifications that the city is looking for,” Planning Director Hannah Jacobson said.

Pre-development activities involve DFI choosing a qualified developer and determining if the property would be best as residential, retail, or office space.

“This gets into trying to identify a development partner. They’ve got a lot of resources and they’ve got a lot of great networks to use that will help us to find somebody who’s going to make something great there,” Jacobson said.

The plan is for the city and DFI to meet regularly and to continue to do high-level market analysis of the area. DFI will monitor the neighborhood, the local real estate market, and do more behind-the-scenes work before going to the public for their input. DFI stressed the importance of community engagement as the best way to proceed with the project.

There is still additional environmental clean up that is needed on the site. Another round of soil remediation will be taking place, with the completed work to be done by March or April. After the city bought the Kesler Mill property in 2019, the intent was to renovate the property with a new structure for the benefit of the community. Now, that process is finally starting to begin.

“It’s like my favorite site that we’ve ever bought. We’re going to clean it up, we’re going to do something with it when nothing’s been done with it for way too long. I’m very excited about all that.” Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Sheffield said.