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Burned Hillsborough mill to be reborn as apartments

Posted September 7

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— Less than four months after fire ripped through an abandoned textile mill in Hillsborough, construction has started to transform the old mill into trendy loft-style apartments.

Orange Rural Fire Department Capt. Troy Breshears said Wednesday that the May 20 fire at the Bellevue Manufacturing Co. mill, at 202 S. Nash St., is the largest blaze he's ever fought in Hillsborough.

"The whole sky was black," Breshears said. "It looked like a Category 5 tornado, really."

Smoke from the fire could be seen as far away as Raleigh.

"The fire was intense," said John Bohlin, manager of the Hillsborough BBQ Company restaurant next to the mill building. "Nobody got hurt. Just the mill was damaged."

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the weaving building in the three-building complex, saving the main two-story mill building, which dates to 1909, and the cloth building. The complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated by the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners as a local historic landmark.

The 125,000-square-foot mill has been vacant for more than a decade and was days away from being sold to a developer when it burned. But the development team went back to the drawing board, devised a $20 million plan to rebuild the site that both preserves the existing historic structure and replaces the burned section with materials similar to those that were destroyed and was able to again secure the needed tax credits to transform the mill into a residential complex.

The developer, Bellevue Mill LLC, purchased the property last week and started work on the 114 apartments planned this week.

Lisa Wells opened pet supply store Paws at the Corner down the street from the mill seven years ago, and she's pleased the plans for the burned building didn't go up in smoke after the fire.

"One of the reasons we picked this area is because we knew it would not be stagnant. We knew it was going to develop. We're excited," Wells said.

Scott Pasley owns and refurbished the building next door to the mill.

"We really like to recycle here, There is a lot of good bones and character in these old buildings. I think people like the history," Pasley said.

"I think it's cool the building is going to get used," Bohlin said. "There is a lot of history there, and they are going to be true to that."

Developers haven't said when the apartments will be ready to rent, but they said the project will blend the historic architecture with the comforts of luxury loft apartments, including a swimming pool, an exercise facility, a community room and lounge, grilling areas and nature trails.

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