By David Meade
At one time, Pelzer was the home of the largest cotton mill community in the South and one of the largest in the world. In more recent times, the town has experienced hard times and is now just a shell of what it once was. But that may change. The historic property that was once the location of two textile mills and early power generation has a new owner and may be the key to a brighter future for Pelzer.
The Pelzer Mill property, comprised of a total of 72 acres located on the Saluda River, has basically been unused and neglected since the mills were torn down and material salvaged from them several years ago.
Led by a vision of Pelzer Heritage Commisssion member Larry Coker, with support of the other members, the organization began discussions with owners of the Pelzer Mill property, to have the property turned over to the non-profit group.
Approximately nine months later, on Friday, Dec. 27, the necessary paperwork for donation of the property was finalized.
“I am proud to announce as of Dec. 27, 2013, all the Pelzer mill property is in the hands of the Pelzer Heritage Commission,” Coker said. The property will be managed under a new non-profit organization, Pelzer Mills Property LLC.
Coker initially contacted Tom Green, one of the owners of Green Family Materials of Cordova Tenn. earlier this year to see if there was a possibility of having the property donated to a non-profit group.
Green Family Materials, a repurposing and salvage company, purchased the property as a salvage project for wood, brick and other materials from the historic buildings. Only the mill offices and a warehouse structure still remain.
The lower mill property also has a pallet company operating on it.
After months of discussions, owners of Green Family Materials, Tom Green and Margie Green Schloesser, met with Pelzer Heritage Commission members in October to hear about plans they have for the property.
“It has been a pleasure to get to know the members of the Pelzer Heritage Commission and gain an understanding of the long-term goals of the group,” Tom Green said. “Margie and I are happy to have the opportunity to contribute to the future economic growth of the Pelzer community.”
Coker said, “I would like to thank Tom Green and his sister Margie Schloesser for this gift to the Pelzer Historic Commission,” Coker said. “I would also like to thank all the Pelzer Heritage members for all their hard work.”
Coker also acknowledged the help of Gail Jeter at Concurrent Tech. Corp., Mark Barenbrok, Brownsfield Coordinator with DHEC and Attorney Leon Harmon of Nexum Pruitt Law Firm for their help on the project.
In a statement to The Journal, Coker said, “We plan on getting the properties cleaned up and try to get some investors interested in developing the lower mill and upper mill property. It would be nice to come across the river bridge and see a nice restaurant, some shops and a nice park overlooking the river,” he said.
Coker said he could see a gated senior retirement center and activity center on the upper mill property.
The Pelzer Heritage Commission also has hopes of renovating the old mill office as a textile museum, as well as possibly adding a restaurant to attract visitors.
There are some problems with the building though, including asbestos and lead based paints.
The property has had brownsfield assessments and has been approved for development, however a voluntary cleanup is still required. Possible grants will also help with cleanup of the property, Coker said.
Discussions with Anderson County Officials about possibilities for the properties have also been positive, according to Coker.
Coker said the Pelzer Heritage Commission has the support of the town and hopes residents of Pelzer will become involved.
One of the first projects for the group is cleaning up the lower mill property around the parking lot and the old office building.
“We will be setting up a community meeting very soon at the community building in the Monkey Park,” Coker said. “Come out and support our projects.”