Concord's mills transformed to house local artists and small businesses
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CONCORD -- Some of Concord's historic buildings are giving new opportunities to artists and small businesses. The Warren C. Coleman mill and the city's first water works building date back nearly a century. But the once vacant industrial spaces are now housing the work of North Carolina artists and small businesses owners.
Inside the old Warren C. Coleman mill in Concord, a place with a storied history of success lays a new story of success for Randall Talbert.
"We do Volkswagen restoration, new and late model German automobile repair," said Talbert.
Talbert has been running his business, Uwharrie European, for two years. He says when he moved it to the Coleman Mill earlier this year, business grew dramatically.
"When we moved here in March I watched my business double or triple," said Talbert.
The mill was the first African American owned and operated textile mill in the U.S., started by Warren C. Coleman.
Now a portion of the almost 100,000 square feet is creating opportunities for Shirley Jackson as well. She's starting up an artisan mall called Funkie Junke.
"We currently have space available for approximately 150 vendors, so we're looking at this being an all handmade or crafted mall that's very unique and one of a kind," said Jackson.
"There are sites all over Concord and really all over the country that are just waiting to be reused," said Steve Osborne, Deputy Director of the city’s Planning Department.
Another one of those sites is Clearwater in Concord's Gibson neighborhood. It was the city's first water treatment plant nearly a century ago.
"There's much more demand than we have space," said Osborne.
Artists like Sunya Folayan say the affordable rent at the former plant draws them from places like Charlotte's NoDa area.
"The property values just went so high it was just hard for artists to stay," said Folayan.