The historic City Mills property along the Chattahoochee River near downtown Columbus is taking another major step toward revitalization for future apartment, restaurant and entertainment space.
Green Coast Enterprises, based in New Orleans, has signed a letter of intent to work on the project by seeking federal tax credits that will soften the overall costs of rehabilitating the decaying mill structures that date to 1890, with the possibility of new construction.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s thrilling to be in Columbus, because they get it,” said Laurie DeVetger in a release on the project. She and colleagues Lex Kelson and Will Bradshaw have formed the entity, Green Coast Enterprises Georgia, to tackle the work. “(Columbus) put their dollars where their mouths are and invested in a master plan that promotes their values and where they would like to see specific growth.”
City leaders unveiled a “City Village” master plan last year, with City Mills among four districts along the river that could be revived with the help of $60 million in public money from multiple sources. The other districts are Riverfront Campus, Bradley Circle and Johnston Mills.
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Green Coast Enterprises, founded in 2007, has worked to develop properties valued at more than $150 million in the New Orleans area. That includes nearly 1,000 housing units and about 30,000 square feet of commercial space.
“We think that they have a better opportunity to make it a more viable project, and our goal all along has been to put the buildings back to re-use,” Columbus attorney and property owner Ken Henson Jr. said Thursday of Green Coast’s decision to join the project.
Henson, operating as City Mills Property LLC, purchased the property nearly two years ago for $800,000. He since has partnered with the Historic Columbus Foundation to continue the efforts to pump life back into the former flour and grist mill that is on the National Register of Historic Places because it is part of the Columbus Historic River Front Industrial District.
The 50-50 partners already spent more than $1 million to stabilize the current City Mills structures that include a six-story flour mill and a five-story warehouse that were built in 1890.
“We put a new roof on it. Parts of it were falling in,” Henson said. “The brick and mortar has been repointed on the outside. It has been stabilized and we spent $1.25 million to do it.”
Green Coast Enterprises Georgia will take the next four months to determine if the federal tax credits will make the project viable. Aside from traditional historic tax credits, the company is expected to seek what is known as New Market Tax Credits.
That federal program aims to provide incentives for development and economic growth by attracting private investment to distressed areas of communities. That includes vacant commercial properties and antiquated manufacturing facilities. The program typically has drawn $8 in private investment for every dollar of federal funding through the credits.
“They’ve basically got a 120-day window to help secure the New Market Tax Credits and the historic tax credits, and if both of those get a thumbs-up from the federal reviewers, then it’s their intent to purchase the property from Ken Henson and our organization,” said Justin Krieg, director of planning and programs at the Historic Columbus Foundation.
Krieg said his organization is handling the application for the historic tax credits, while Green Coast brings their expertise to the new market credits. Plans have already been drawn up by 2WR Architects for the project and quite a bit of engineering work has been done, he said.
“The thought would be that the project would start and be completed within probably a 24-month period,” said Krieg, acknowledging this is a pivotal moment for City Mills and the foundation.
“This building by far is the largest single capital investment that our organization has made in its 51 years of existence,” he said.