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West side mill now being maintained by the TRA

Mills condemned

Staff Report

The City of Tallassee has condemned former mill buildings on both sides of the Tallapoosa River. The structures include the 1852 Mill No. 1, commonly known as the Old Mill, in West Tallassee and the recently burned 1897 Mill No. 2 and 1923 Mill No. 3 in East Tallassee.

City building official John Stonaker issued the condmenation letter on May 19 to the respective owners.

"I was under the assumption when I took over that the (west side) building was already condemned," he said. Stonaker contacted city attorney John Smith after the May 4 fire to discuss the city's options.

"If we have an expectation from one side, we need one from the other," Stonaker added. "Safety's got to come first. On the west side, it's next to a street that parents drive on to take their kids to school every day."

The west side property is now owned by the Tallassee Redevelopment Authority (TRA). The TRA is a municipal corporation that was created by the City of Tallassee whose purpose is to revitalize the Tallassee business district.

Stonaker is well aware that the TRA is an arm of the city.

"It's a tough situation," he noted. "I care about Tallassee just like everybody else does. I want it to have some historic value, but also want something we can be proud of."

The east side mill was purchased by Mount Vernon Pine, LLC on April 29. Still in the midst of a fire investigation, owner Tommy Hudson is undecided about the property's future.

"We have not made any plans whatsoever," said Hudson. "We've considered a number of things and (will) obviously do something with the property."

East Tallassee Mill before May 4 fire

Stonaker wants a plan of action for each side. "What is the long-term plan and the timeline on those plans," he asked. "I want to have something before the first council meeting in July."

The TRA met last week at City Hall about the condemnation status.

Chairman Hank Golden spoke, "The plan is to have a joint meeting with the Talisi Historical Preservation Society within the next few weeks and put a plan in place for feasible development of the property," he stated. "There are 18 acres there that would make a wonderful site for a new recreation center, park or green space."

During the meeting other board members shared ideas for improvement in a brainstorming session. "The ideal situation would be to get someone to come in and build something there," Steve Burak suggested. "Another option would be to deconstruct and have a park there."

Burak also pointed out that the space could eventually be used for office space in an incubator style format.  He elaborated, "Businesses are so mobile now that they can practically work from any location. I think we could attract new businesses from other areas."

Other ideas that were discussed included taking down the existing walls to a safe height and selling the stone removed to help pay for the initial cleanup of the property. Leigh Anne Butler, of the audience, added to that idea with the property being utilized as a special event venue.

"The property is perfectly situated for weddings," she explained.  "It could be fitted with bench style seating and used for open-air weddings. The 1844 armory would be an ideal space for receptions. You would have breathtaking views of the river and a wide open expanse of space that is perfect for parties.  The already renovated boiler room could be used for pre-wedding dressing and as an area for caterers to prepare food. People are always looking for unique and all-inclusive places to host weddings and special events. This could be a money maker for the city."

The owners have 45 days to respond to the city with their plans.

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