Rocky Mount, Raleigh’s rival? Some think so with launch of new live-work-play complex

ROCKY MOUNT – For years, the 19th century cotton mill and its surrounding village on the Tar River sat abandoned and locked up, a vestige of a bygone era.

“There was a huge chain-linked fence around the campus,” recalls David Joyner, 34, who grew up less than a mile from the mill on Nash Street. “The houses were falling down. It was just an eyesore.”

For many, Rocky Mount Mills, once a major hub for the South’s textile industry, had become a symbol for the town itself.

Located 60 miles east of Raleigh and exactly half way between New York and Florida, Rocky Mount got hit hard by Hurricane Floyd two decades earlier. Coupled with the loss of the textile industry, it was struggling to survive like many rural towns across the country.

But some say that’s all about to change.

On the heels of its 200th anniversary, the mill is getting a new lease of life. After more than a decade in the making, restoration on the main mill building is finally complete.

The result: 67 apartments available to occupy, and 120,000 square-feet of office space ready for upfit. Come spring, the mill also expects to have open for business a 20-unit tiny-home hotel, River & Twine; its former boiler room, will now be a 4,000-square-foot multi-level event space dubbed The Power House.

It’s the largest overhaul yet for this 150-acre mixed-use development spearheaded by Capitol Broadcasting Company (CBC), the parent company of WRAL TechWire.

For the Goodmon family, CBC’s long-time owners, it’s a developer’s dream to convert this once-forgotten mill into a live-work-play complex. But for many locals, it’s more than that. It’s a chance to put Rocky Mount back on the map – and possibly rival Raleigh as an alternative for doing business.

“It’s been a shot in the arm of positivity for the whole region,” says Joyner, a local business owner who lives on campus in a restored mill home, and runs his media company from an office space in the old Battle House. “It’s a lot bigger than just a Rocky Mount development. It will be looked at as a catalyst for an entire region. People are really excited.”

Already, a number of other big projects are in the pipeline. The Chinese tiremaker Triangle Tire is planning to build two manufacturing sites between Rocky Mount and Tarboro, bringing 800 jobs and nearly $580 million in investment. Corning Inc. is also investing $86 million to build a warehouse facility, creating 111 jobs.

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(WRAL TechWire, 4/22/19)