ABINGDON— The City of Mount Airy, N.C. is looking to develop the former Spencer’s Mill industrial property downtown, and ask Barter Theatre to expand operations. The plans call for a 500-seat Barter Theatre branch to be developed in Building Nine of the former Spencer’s property, to the rear of structures fronting Willow Street where other facilities including a four-star hotel, banquet center and retail spaces are going to be developed.
On February 1 at 6 p.m. a meeting was held in the auditorium at Mount Airy High School to outline the project to the public. The meeting presented information about the proposal and gave an opportunity for Mount Airy citizens to give input on what is envision for their community.
Mac McCarley, an attorney out of Charlotte, North Carolina, is assisting Mount Airy in redeveloping the Spencer’s property. He explained that the current letter of intent between Mount Airy and Barter Theatre is not binding and is only a draft agreement. The details of that agreement include a 20-year deal with the purpose of bringing economic development, overnight stays, and tourism dollars to Mount Airy.
This agreement entails that the city of Mount Airy would finance and construct the theatre, assist with maintenance and repair of the building, and provide public parking. Barter Theatre would be required to have 250 performances per year and cover all costs of productions of performances and costs of managing and operating the facility.
McCarley explained that the majority of this project will be paid for using new market tax credits, state mill tax credits, and federal historic tax credits. After tax credits $5.2 million is still needed to fund the project. Barter Theatre will raise $2 million, leaving the city a cost of about $3.5 million.
“You get a $13.5 million theatre, capital cost, for a $3.5 million cost to the city, that’s why this project will work,” McCarley stated. The City Commission will vote on the proposed plan at the meeting on February 15.