JUNE 14, 2010 9:13 a.m. (0)
The tenants at Mayfair Lofts generally aren’t locals but they have helped make the mill restoration project one of Spartanburg County’s success stories, said Pace Burt of Burt Development.
Perched alongside a major rail line on the edge of the City of Spartanburg, Mayfair Lofts is sandwiched between major shopping, and business opportunities as well as having easy access to colleges and the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg.
It also carries more than a small share of history behind thick brick walls and on the stout hardwood floors of the century old, three-story mill building.
Mayfair owes its existence today to sturdy 19th Century fire doors that worked when they had to and literally saved the building from fiery destruction in an arson attempt while restoration was ongoing.
Some of the most popular apartments in the 107-unit building are located in the four-story stairwell that was gutted in the arson attempt, said Rick Goddard of Southeastern Management Co., who handles the property for Burt.
“Someone set the fire in the basement,” Goddard said. “There is still TV footage floating around that shows this stairwell with flames just blasting out the windows back in 2005.”
The stairwell on the eastern end of the building was gutted, Goddard said. But the thick steel fire doors worked as they were designed to a century ago.
Heat from the fire melted lead doorstops at the base of the doors and gravity pulled them shut, saving the rest of the building.
“Generally what we get here are young professionals right out of college,” said Goddard. “They take a look at what we have (smart, spacious apartments with amenities that normally are only found in high-end condos) and decide to move in.”
There is still a certain stigma associated with mills and living in mill villages among some locals, Burt said. People from outside the area, and there are lots of them, don’t share that feeling.
Some former workers at the mill became emotional when they came by during the restoration process to tour the place, said Heather Herring, property manager at Mayfair.
“They could tell you where they worked when the mill was still running,” she said. “And they were teary to see the place getting used again instead of being torn down.”
Mayfair Lofts has an assessed value of $1.055 million, according to Spartanburg County tax records.
One-bedroom efficiencies in the mill stairwell rent for about $700 a month and feature granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Interviewed last week, Burt didn’t have cost figures on the project handy, but said generally restoration projects like Mayfair cost about 30 percent more per square foot than building from scratch.
There are advantages, however, to an old mill building like tremendous amounts of window glass in each unit, the floors and exterior walls are incredibly strong and have a rugged beauty.
The same New England architectural firm built most of the old mills in this part of the country.
“They did it right. But if it weren’t for the state and federal tax credits we couldn’t do a project like this.” Burt said.
Part of the stipulation on the tax credits is that the building must be used as apartments for a five-year period before it can be converted to condos.
For now that isn’t in the plans for Mayfair, Burt said.
“Our occupancy rate is in the upper 80 percent range,” he said. “And we’d like to see it in the 90 percent range. That tells me that the economy in Spartanburg hasn’t recovered as quickly as other areas of the Upstate.”
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