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  • Tierany Griffin

FUSE District Vision Coming Into View, With Sights Set on Urban and Historic Mill Development

2021 is looking to be an excellent year for exciting attractions in Gaston County, thanks in large part to the development of the Franklin Urban Sports Entertainment Complex (FUSE).

Plans for FUSE are quickly coming to fruition, setting the stage for multiple Gaston County developments. Downtown Gastonia will see the former Center Theater location transformed into Center City Crossing, a multi-level apartment building in partnership with Kuester Development. The historic Trenton Mill will be repurposed, including 84 loft apartments, with the help of Lansing Melbourne Group (LMG).

Rendering of Center City Crossing - Courtesy of Kuester Development

With FUSE construction underway, the county is eagerly anticipating significant progress in the development coming Spring 2021, with the addition of the 135,000 square-foot sports complex in Gastonia. Offering improvement to the area’s physical and economic condition as well as the rich benefit of luxurious amenities and rising home values, this new initiative provides quite the backdrop to better neighborhoods and deeper connections with a mission grounded in extraordinary living.

Economic Development By Way of FUSE

Nestled between the Loray and Downtown districts, the multi-use development is designed to revitalize urban living and provide one of the most unique shopping, dining, and performance locales in the state.

Downtown Gastonia - Photo Courtesy of GarlandBurks

In partnership with real estate entrepreneur Brandon Bellamy of The Velocity Companies, officials have come up with an economic development plan that could yield a potential $100M investment opportunity for the City. Gastonia’s Mayor Walker Reid, III stated in an official press release that this moment was a “milestone” and an example of how “public-private partnerships can revitalize a community, proving to be beneficial for everyone.”

Loray Mill - Photo Courtesy of Loray Mill

Sports and Then Some

At the heart of the FUSE project is a 5000-seat, $26.2 million ballpark, projected to span more than 6.5 acres when complete. The arena will serve as home to the new Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) team, also owned by Bellamy. A place to experience the thrills of the ever-booming athletics scene, the FUSE Complex provides solutions for sports and event enthusiasts alike.

Gastonia's ALPB Stadium at the Heart of the FUSE District - Photo Courtesy of Darius Lindsay

In addition to baseball, it will also feature other year-round sporting events, like football and lacrosse, as well as concerts and family-friendly entertainment. With a generated investment estimated at over $75 million, the facility will ultimately create more job opportunities, mobilizing employment in various industries including construction, manufacturing, and retail. This not only fuels economic growth, but it also attracts the lively and energetic attention of tourists and visitors, creating a viable opportunity for everyone.

Preserving History, Building the Future

A fusion of the past and present, the renewal project will also include the preservation efforts for the 125-year-old Trenton Mill, a historic cotton textile mill located a half-mile west of Downtown Gastonia, and the former Coca-Cola bottling plant.

Historic Coca-Cola Bottling Facility - Photo Courtesy Grant Baldwin, Gaston Outside

In addition to the 84 apartment units, the redevelopment plan calls for Trenton Mill to be used as a support location for the ALPB team, which could include a team store and other outparcel opportunities. “This will be a curated building, as we preserve the important history of working people in this city,” said Peter Flotz, Managing Member for LMG. “The FUSE District was also a huge factor in our decision to transform this property into The Trenton Mill Lofts.”

While plans for the 50,000 square-foot Coca-Cola building are still developing, there are talks to convert the structure into multiple commercial spaces that could include a hotel, restaurants and loft apartments.

According to the Gaston Gazette, Developer Eric Vargosko with Lenox Development Group has been assigned to oversee the 85,000 square foot building. Vargosko has visions of transforming the space to resemble Manhattan's Chelsea Market (which is not unlike nearby Optimist Hall) bringing the freshness of urban community to Gastonia's city center.

As tenants sign leases and construction continues, dreams of breweries and restaurants coming to the district are being realized with the confirmation of Durham's Durty Bull Brewing's plan to take up residence in the 10,000 square foot space. Plans are underway for an event space as well as taproom with craft food, setting the stage for the FUSE District to be a destination and driving potential investors to the space to continue the vision of urban amenities with a small-town feel.

Durty Bull Brewing's Taproom - Photo Courtesy of Paul Wasmund, CHARLOTTEFIVE

As the new FUSE District is more than a playground for sports and historical enthusiasts, a recent feasibility study shows that Gaston County is attracting younger residents. Embodying Gastonia’s rich reputation of desirable housing and Southern charm, this change also brings highlight and value to walkable communities that feature a blend of residential and commercial property, with access to culture, unique restaurants, and nightlife.

Gastonia's Historic District Homes Neighboring the FUSE District - Photo Courtesy of Tom Hauer

Enhancing Gastonia's Quality of Life

Existing downtown staples like Webb Custom Kitchen, Barrister's at the Esquire Hotel, Cavendish Brewing Company, and Sleepy Poet Antique Mall along with the recent opening of Pita Wheel and upcoming WhiskGars have already set the tone for this type of conviviality, so with adjacent lots to FUSE, we can only expect more of this.

Night in Downtown Gastonia - Photo Courtesy of GarlandBurks

These types of robust neighborhood developments create an elevated experience that offers more incentives for those who prefer a more modern, flexible way of living. Whether it’s grabbing dinner with friends or shopping with the family, the FUSE District’s retail corridor will include an exceptional mix of locally independent and nationally recognized retailers.

Likewise, successful holistic initiatives, such as those through the Community Development Housing Program, an effort that provides affordable housing options for qualified low and moderate-income persons, are just some of the other public-private partnerships that have helped increase the quality of life for residents of all ages and incomes. These types of partnerships also show how the City continues to implement important programs that welcome, shape, and support healthy, vibrant, and sustainable lifestyles for existing residents.

Historic Loray Mill- Photo Courtesy of Grant Baldwin

The close proximity to Loray Village, Downtown Gastonia, and surrounding neighborhoods sets the tone for another of FUSE’s goals: pedestrian accessibility. Renewed streetscape plans show a pedestrian-friendly passageway that encourages biking, public transit, and additional parking, creating easy access to and from the complex. Continuing a progressive mindset, multi-office tenants will also benefit from these amenities with the corridor including commercial office space, bringing added activity through looping professionals from across age ranges and backgrounds into the mix.

The developing FUSE Complex project will change the way people in Gaston County live, work, and play. With no sign of slowing down any time soon, City officials are taking steps to facilitate experiences authentic to Gaston County and the region. Through historic preservation, the opportunity for business development, and the expansion of local sports franchises, FUSE's multidimensional model plays a pivotal role in the continued forward-movement of Gaston County, helping shape what is to come.

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