Danville residents share mixed reactions to possible purchase of city's White Mill building

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DANVILLE (WSLS 10) - Danville city leaders are constantly marketing the 650,000 sq. ft. White Mill building to potential investors, but no one has been willing to commit to the building.

Now though, that may be changing.

"There are points in the process of getting a development into the city where negotiations have to happen behind close doors, so there's not a lot I can say in that regard," said Danville City Manager Ken Larking. "But, we have had enough interest in that property that we feel pretty confident that we can get development on that."

At the March 21 council meeting, a first reading will be held for an ordinance to appropriate to the Industrial Development Authority $1.5 million from the city's general fund to help purchase the building and the land around it.

The city plans to purchase the building and the land for a total of $3 million. Larking pointed out that in the past, the owner had asked for as much as $20 million.

"We felt that $3 million was a good place to start with negotiations," Larking explained.

Another $1.5 million would be appropriated in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The city is also pursuing other funding sources, such as grants, and any money that the city gets would be applied to the $3 million, thereby reducing the amount of taxpayer money that would have to be used.

Some residents though, like Andrew Quinn, would be okay with $3 million of taxpayer money being used to help bring the building back.

"It'd be a great reminder of the past," said Quinn.

Others, like salon owner Jerry Amburn, are worried that the city purchasing the building is an indication that the nearby White Mill Dam will be torn down.

"[The White Mill building has] been zoned a flood zone, so therefore a lot of people that have expressed interest have had to walk away due to the cost that insurance would cost. Now with the IDA talking about buying it, suddenly there's renewed interest in tearing the dam down," Amburn said.

He has started a petition to keep the dam and plans to eventually present it to the city.

Per city policy, at the first reading that will take place at the March 21 council meeting there will be no public comment on the issue of the purchase.

At the following council meeting when the second and final reading is held, there will be a public comment period before a vote is taken.