The Valdosta Daily Times
Remerton’s city council unanimously accepted an appeal to postpone the Remerton Mill complex’s final demolition vote until Sept 4.
Locals, outsiders, previous owners, past mayors, local architects and a descendant of the mill’s original owner showed up at Remerton’s June 11 city council session. Citizens spoke on behalf of the aging mill, pleading with city council to preserve the city’s history and to allow the mill to tell its story to another generation.
“What would Remerton be without the mill,” said one concerned citizen. “Valdosta.”
Spokesman, and part owner, for Remerton Mills LLC, Joe Tillman, was present to state his partners’ case, as he presented a supplementary statement to the mill ownership group’s original certificate of appropriateness for the mill’s demolition.
“We didn’t buy the property along with a certificate of appropriateness,” said Tillman. “I wish some of the people here would have contributed to our efforts at the beginning.”
In the itemized statement, which was disbursed to all in attendance, the owners cited their numerous attempts to develop the property, starting with their Aug. 2007 collaboration with Remerton’s Downtown Development Authority for the establishment of a mixed-use site and ending with a summation of the group’s current assessment of the venture thus far.
“For seven years, Remerton Mills, LLC has made every effort to save some portion of the Strickland Cotton Mill,” according to the group’s statement. “But it is clear that the mill buildings cannot be economically rehabilitated through private development or through a public-private joint venture.”
Emily Foster, of the Historic Preservation Society, had opened the public forum session of the meeting with a reiteration of her pleas to preserve the mill’s primary building and smoke stack or, at the very least, to extend the final vote to a later time.
Tillman responded to the idea of a partial demolition by retorting that the mill’s contributing buildings were attached to the primary building in such a way that it wouldn’t be feasible to salvage the complex’s main buildings.
In the statement by Remerton Mills LLC, the group said that they’d worked with over 20 private developers but could not arrive at an economically feasible solution to restore the mill complex.
“I’ve worked with a lot of buildings of this type, including West Hall of Valdosta State University,” said local architect Blake Ellis. “You have got a priceless asset in Remerton. If you tear it down, that’s the end of it. (The non-contributing structures), in my opinion, need to come done. The primary structures should stay intact until you find a developer to work with it. It’s totally irreplaceable.”
The Strickland Mills complex was built in 1899. The mill was occupied until 2005, when Remerton Mills LLC purchased the complex and its contributing buildings from Fred Wilkinson and Associates for a combined total of $2 million.
Since the purchase, the mill ownership group and Remerton’s city council have been grid-locked on how to move forward with the mill complex. As private owners, Remerton Mills LLC doesn’t qualify for federal grants. The city of Remerton, a public entity, qualifies for federal tax credits but doesn’t have the capital to support the purchase.
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