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Concord discusses honoring Warren C. Coleman in affordable housing project

Concord discusses honoring Warren C. Coleman in affordable housing project

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Coleman Mill Apartment Site Plan

The Coleman Mill Apartments site plan has been through Concord Planning and Zoning and was approved in 2018. The plan shows 152 affordable housing units along with recreation areas, a computer area and a picnic area. 

CONCORD – The Concord City Council approved allocating $385,000 in Home funds to put 152 affordable housing units in the Coleman-Franklin-Cannon Mill.

The developer for the project, Sari and Company, has put forward a site plan that includes 152 units of affordable housing to be put in the mill located at 625 Main Street SW. The plan also includes a multipurpose room, playground, covered picnic area, swimming pool, exercise area and residential computer area to be developed on the 10.71-acre property. The site plan was approved by the city council in 2018. The development is proposed to be named Coleman Mill Apartments.

The Coleman Mill – which was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 – was the first African-American owned and operated textile mill in the nation. Its owner, Warren Clay Coleman, was born into slavery. After emancipation, he started investing in real estate and later began the Coleman Manufacturing Company and established it in 1897. At the height of the mill’s prosperity, it employed 200-300 people.

Council member John Sweat Jr. asked Jim Sari, owner of Sari and Company, about how Coleman would be honored or remembered through the new development, during the council’s work session Tuesday, June 9. Sweat also asked if the community would be asked for input on any type of memorial that is put in place.

Sari said that he had experience working with historic buildings that were repurposed for housing and said he planned for a memorial to be in place but didn’t have any details yet.

“My guess is we will take some area in the lobby in one of the community areas – a few hundred square feet – to make a shrine and have some words and some placards that talk about him and pictures,” he said.

Sari admitted that he didn’t have a great amount of knowledge of Coleman but said he would recognize his legacy.

Council member Andy Langford also voiced his agreement with Sweat, stating that, while he thought the housing plan was a good project, Mr. Coleman should be honored.

“We absolutely need to honor Mr. Coleman. I think this is an exciting project. But I hope we really do make this a significant witness to what he meant to this community,” Langford said.

During the regular council meeting June 11, Norman McCullough, a local historian and professor who has written a book on Coleman, asked that the council ensure that Coleman and the history of the mill be recognized in the project. He asked that the community’s input be included.

“I am requesting with your assistance that no agreement is to be made without a plan to recognize the legacy of Mr. Coleman and his times,” McCullough said.

Mayor Bill C. Dusch agreed to connect McCullough with Sari to help create and plan out specifics for the memorial.

As the process to start the development continues, Sari said that construction for the project is set for January 2021 and expects it to take 14-16 months for completion. Sari and Company will be investing $28 million into the project.

The city council also approved the issuance of tax exempt bonds in May 2019 to help fund the acquisition, development and equipment of the project. The bonds are solely be payable from the developer’s revenues and are not general obligations of the city, the 2019 bond issuance proclamation stated.

The city works as a pass through for the bonds and will receive some revenue.

The management for the housing project, once it is opened, will be run by the Concord Family Enrichment Association. Since the association is not currently staffed, contracts will go out to secure employees. The association will come onboard 90 days before the apartment doors open, Sari said.

Having CFEA manage the property will result in some revenues for the non-profit, which was established by the city council. There will be an estimated $234,000 a year in revenues for the association.

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