City leaders seek new life for old water plant

LUMBERTON — City officials say a fresh approach is needed to put an old building on North Water Street back to work.

They are trying to write a new chapter for the abandoned water plant, which was built in 1952, occupies prime real estate in the downtown area, and has become an eyesore.

“A re-use (is possible), like the old city hall worked through Preservation North Carolina,” said Wayne Horne, city manager.

The city is employing Retail Strategies to market the building.

The old plant was built during Robeson County’s textile boom. It was shut down and shuttered when Lumberton outgrew the plant’s capacity and the water treatment facility off Lowery Street went into operation.

Now the water facility near Eighth Street is an empty shell waiting for a new purpose.

Connie Russ, Downtown Development coordinator for the city of Lumberton, is working with Rediscover Downtown Lumberton to develop plans for the old water plant.

“We think it would be ideal for us to market the building as a microbrewery, maybe a restaurant, to serve food,” she said. “The Riverwalk as planned will go right behind this building. We need something usable for that space.”

The facility is envisioned as a major anchor point for cafes and entertainment venues, according to the RDL master plan. Reviews of the market and the site will be conducted, and then proposals that meet the city’s needs will be requested from developers. A developer would then be chosen, and an agreement would be made for the purchase and redevelopment of the plant.

“We need things for people to do in order for them to live here,” Russ said.

A variety of ideas for repurposing the water plant have been proposed over the years. One was to use it as an art gallery, but in the end that idea was deemed unfeasible.

“One possibility is to turn it over to N.C. Preservation to market it for some purpose, just as they sold the old fire station,” Russ said. “We would like to see something done by someone with wider stretching arms than us.”

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(The Robesonian, 6/1/8)