Businesses wait for mill renovation

sgilman@newsobserver.comMarch 3, 2014 

Businesses hoping to move into the old Clayton Spinning Mill will have to wait a little longer.

Building owners Steve Yauch and Michael Hubbard have grand designs to transform Clayton’s historic cotton mill at 300 Mill St. into a sports center. But progress is waiting on paperwork, Hubbard said.

Since the Clayton News-Star wrote about their plans in December, the two men have received hundreds of calls from interested businesses.

“I have a list of probably 75 business concepts, all related to community, all related to youth, all related to the concept,” Hubbard said. The businesses are interested in the space partly because of lower rents that would be made possible by the tax credits for rehabbing historic buildings.

Businesses interested in space in the 50,000-square-foot mill include laser tag, rock band schools, bounce houses, “every fitness and Zumba,” and more, Hubbard said.

Nick’s Flippin’ Kids, Clayton’s popular gymnastics school, is one such business. The gym’s 8,500-square-foot space at 101 Bestwood Drive is bursting with students.

“He’s just looking at me going, ‘When are you going to open?’” Hubbard said of owner Nick Brancheau.

Marked with a simple “Gymnastics” sign, Nick’s Flippin’ Kids, whose motto is “Pray First,” grew by word of mouth into the busy hub of gymnastics classes it is today. When it opened its doors in May of 2009, it had no students.

“After one day, we had one sign up,” Brancheau said. “After two days, we had two sign up. That’s how it grew, one at a time.”

The business grew so much that Brancheau and his wife, Chris, renovated the gym, a converted two-car garage, to give them more space. They have already filled it.

Clayton resident Kristin Henry has two of her three children enrolled in classes at Nick’s. “It’s a big crowd,” she said. “I think that’s a good sign, because a lot of people really want to be here.”

But parking is a problem, and the school can’t take on any more students.

“We’re already at capacity, so we just can’t have more kids in here,” Brancheau said. “We need a new gym, a bigger gym.”

His wife agreed. “We’ve outgrown this spot,” she said. “We’re hoping with the mill thing, it all gets done so we can be there.”

But the Brancheaus and other business owners in Clayton likely have a while to wait. Hubbard and Yauch have submitted an application to the National Park Service to receive historic designation, which would qualify them for state and federal tax credits. Under the “mills bill,” developers rehabilitating historic industrial sites can receive tax credits of 30 percent from the state and 20 percent from the federal government.

The tax credit for these historic-preservation projects will sunset at the end of 2014, so Hubbard and Yauch are very much hoping to receive approval from the National Park Service before then.

If they do get approved, investors will likely show more interest in the project, Hubbard said. He said he has a lot of “big names” who want to invest in the project, “sports figures and celebrities and that kind of thing.”

Hubbard doesn’t know when he and Yauch will hear back from the park service.

They need to raise about $5 million for the project, which will be done by the architectural firm Clearscapes, which also worked on the Clayton Center and the Clayton Community Center.

Hubbard thinks the mill would bring opportunities for growth to Clayton: “If we can create a sports league where you have 5,000 people come in a week, they’re going to say, ‘Let’s grab lunch. Where are we going to go?’”

His thinking is that people coming to town for the sports would create more demand for hotels and restaurants.

The Brancheaus foresee the same thing. Nick, who has trained some of the nation’s top gymnasts, including national champion Jay Thornton, said, “In the back of my mind is to have an Olympic training center right here.”

“One thing we hope to do when we move to the mill is to host competitions,” Chris said. “It would be really good for the city. They would have to build more hotels and restaurants.”

Gymnastics competitions can draw more than 2,000 kids and their families, they said.

Though construction might not be done until 2015, Hubbard said the wait will be worthwhile. “The mill is going to be incredible when we actually get to do something,” he said.

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