CLAYTON — Two men with a vision to transform Clayton have taken another step toward making that dream a reality, winning the support of town leaders and investors.
Steve Yauch and Michael Hubbard plan to turn one of the town’s historic cotton mills, the Clayton Spinning Mill, into a recreation and entertainment center, with a sports complex, restaurant and art galleries.
The two men have owned the building since before the recession, but the economic downturn stalled their plans, idling the 50,000-square-foot space.
On Monday, the duo and developer Ned Fowler presented their plans in an open forum with town leaders, business owners and investors.
“We want to make Clayton a destination,” Yauch said.
Town Manager Steve Biggs and council members said the town was excited to partner with Yauch and Hubbard.
“The commitment you have made to the community is important, and we recognize that,” Biggs said.
The developer said he hopes to complete the project in 2015. Though nothing is set in stone, the plans now call for a sports complex with indoor soccer, gymnastics, personal training and fitness. Yauch and Hubbard also want to lease space to retail shops and a restaurant, coffee shop or brew pub.
Larry Stevig is president of Clayton Visual Arts, a nonprofit that helps local artists promote their work. At the forum, he said he’d like to see the space include galleries and work spaces for artists.
“I was thrilled to hear there’s an arts group interested,” said Fowler, the developer, who has a background in art. He said the space could house galleries and display works by local artists.
“While kids are playing soccer, parents can have a cup of coffee or go look at art or participate in an art class,” Yauch said.
Yauch and Hubbard have not set lease rates; those will depend on how much the project costs. But Yauch said the rates woyuld be below those in neighboring Raleigh.
Hubbard said he and Yauch want to boost the Clayton economy. “I think we’ll bring a lot of people to downtown after hours, and that will have a positive impact on the town,” Hubbard said.
If the project goes as planned, it could change Clayton from a bedroom community to a destination.
“Change is going to occur,” said Biggs, the town manager.
Councilman Michael Grannis and town planner David DeYoung said their biggest concern was traffic.
The mill is next to the Clayton Post Office on Front Street, an area separated from downtown by bumpy train tracks. If the mill becomes a destination, it could create traffic congestion.
But working in the mill’s favor is the project connect Front Street to N.C. 42 East. That project, scheduled for completion this spring, will connect the mill to N.C. 42 and to a nearby apartment complex that is under construction.
The Clayton Spinning Mill is one of two historic mills in town. The other is now the Bartex Building, which was renovated earlier this year. That mill houses Deep River Brewing, recently named best new downtown business.
The architectural firm Clearscapes will work on the mill project. That’s the same firm that helped revitalize the dilapidated school building that is now the Clayton Center.
One of the architects, Fred Belledin, said the project could be pivotal for Clayton. “This is a way to honor the past of this building and make a statement for who you want to be as a community,” he said.
To share ideas for the mill’s use, check out the Mill Village Facebook page at facebook.com/ClaytonMillVillage.