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Office of Economic Development Hosts First DEV/Con Event

 The following article appeared on Pitt County Post


Building Developers Visited the Imperial Tobacco Site Thursday


Developers interested in building on the Imperial Tobacco site on Atlantic Avenue were given a tour of the property on Thursday by city officials. Staff with the Greenville’s Office of Economic Development on Thursday took local developers as well as potential investors from outside Pitt County on a bus tour of several sites in Greenville, including the Imperial Tobacco site. The city recently issued RFP’s (Requests for Proposals) to develop the property.

“We wanted developers to physically see the site they would be submitting proposals for,” said Christian Lockamy, Greenville’s senior economic developer. The plant was built in the early 1900s and was in use until 1978. Plans for restoring the structure were halted in April 2008 when a fire destroyed most of it.

As a result, the property was cited for multiple code violations. The owner of the property claimed financial
hardship as the reason for failure to clean up the site. In 2012, the city applied for a $400,000 grant from the
Environmental Protection Agency to remediate the site.

In order to qualify for the EPA grant, Greenville had to own the 6.08-acre property. The owner entered an
agreement in which Greenville purchased the property for $1 and retained ownership until the cleanup was
completed. The agreement gave the city an option to purchase the property after the cleanup was complete. The City Council approved the purchase during the adoption of the 2016-17 fiscal year budget last June.

In anticipation of purchasing the Imperial site, the city also spent $360,000 the past two years to purchase
adjacent properties, giving the city about 9 acres to develop.

In September, the City Council contracted with the Development Finance Initiative – an arm of the UNC School of Government – to develop a marketing plan for the property. DFI representatives conducted an analysis of residential, retail and office market opportunities and developed a mixed-used strategy for the site and held several public input meetings to assist in the site design, which DFI presented to the City Council in June.

DFI representative Jordan Jones said presented conceptual site designs for the development of the Imperial Site to the group on Thursday. DFI’s design includes about 316 housing units, 20,000 square feet of retail space, 66,000 square feet of office space, and about 1,100 parking spots.

Lockamy said the proposals should be submitted by Sept. 1. The proposals will be presented to the City Council for consideration in October, he said. “We think the proposals we get will be pretty close to what we have presented here,” Lockamy said. “Some may vary a little but it is ultimately up to the City Council to approve a proposal for the site.”

Thursday’s tour – which included local capital brokers – also toured Greenville’s medical district as well as East Carolina University’s Millennial Campus. After the tour, Scott Buck, ECU’s vice chancellor of business services discussed potential public-private partnerships that the university could enter into with potential investors.

City staff also discussed various economic incentives that are available to local businesses like additional Brownfields grants to clean up potential toxic sites and capital investment grants. “These are some of the tools that we can use to help you,” Lockamy said. “We want to arm our local brokers with this knowledge so they can help advocate Greenville to potential investors.”

Other incentive programs include:

* Building Reuse Grants for the renovation of vacant buildings. The grant is based on the number of full-time jobs that will be created and will include a local government match of five percent. A typical grant is about $5,000 per full-time position

* Facade Improvement Grant Program, to help preserve and enhance the unique historic character of Greenville’s central business district.

“These are available and we are here to help you and to advocate for you,” Economic Development Manager Roger Johnson said. “All you have to do is call our office.”