Old mill in Batesburg-Leesville awaits new role

tflach@thestate.comDecember 25, 2013 

The future of a former textile mill that’s been part of the skyline in Batesburg-Leesville for more than a century is uncertain as its owner ponders what to do with the unused facility.

“It’s been sort of a landmark in town for many decades, but the building has outlived its usefulness,” Mayor Rita Crapps said.

Tearing down the 282,000-square-foot mill could take up to four years, due to the presence of chemicals, lead and mold, which requires careful handling and removal , officials say.

The mill in the center of town housed a commercial recycling center after its days manufacturing mattress fabric ended in 1991.

Its owner, Republic Services, is assessing the future of the 14-acre site.

“We’re at the beginning of what will be a lengthy evaluation process,” said Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Phoenix-based company. “We recognize the community’s interest in plans for the property, but our first priority is safety. It is simply too soon to speculate about future plans.”

The mill once was one of three in the town that processed cotton from farms that formerly surrounded the town. It opened 120 years ago and was run by a series of owners, according to local historian Louise Riley.

Officials in the western Lexington County community of 5,400 residents call the coming change a small-town version of urban renewal.

Town leaders are starting to look at what type of new operations they want to encourage at the site, especially if the facility is demolished and made available for redevelopment.

It could become a retail area or office park, Crapps said.

But its location adjoining a rail spur may make it attractive to industry as well, something town leaders say is OK as long at it would not be a nuisance for neighborhoods around it originally built for mill workers. “That is welcome if it is the right kind,” Crapps said

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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