• Jen McGivney

Osage Mill Inspires Another Chapter in Bessemer City’s Story

Bessemer City Mill
Credit: Bessemer City Facebook

Inside these walls more than a century ago, workers did more than create textiles – they wrote the first chapter in Bessemer City history. This mill, opened by city founder John A. Smith in 1896, stayed in operation until 1995, just one year shy of its centennial. When the mill opened, the city had about 500 residents. Now it has more than ten times that number.

The mill that became the catalyst for the community of Bessemer City will help usher the city into its next chapter, too. The mill, with 260,000 square feet, will be transformed into Osage Mill, a major mixed-use project, due to a $32 million investment. This project will include 150 loft-style apartments as well as 30,000 square feet of retail, office, and community gathering spaces. Just as the original mill used the latest technology of its day, it’ll continue to do so in its new life: Solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling will keep its operations running sustainably and efficiently.

The design work for Osage Mill is nearly complete, and construction will begin later this year. Construction is expected to take about 12 to 18 months to complete, and tenants are expected to begin occupying these spaces in 2021 and 2022. No local tax dollars are being spent on this project. Instead, private developers are able to use historic tax credits, energy tax credits, and new market tax credits in its financing.

It’s not just what’s happening in the walls of this iconic landmark that might transform Bessemer City. The developers of this project hope that it’s a catalyst for an even bigger transformation. With more people, come more consumers; with more office space, come more jobs. Private investors are discovering this area as a prime opportunity for new restaurants, offices, and shops. One already has: Dhollandia MFG announced an investment in Bessemer City that will bring $30 million and 150 to 200 new jobs to town.

“The Osage Mill project will have an immense impact on the community as whole, specifically, downtown,” says Joshua Ross, Bessemer City’s economic development officer. “We are already starting to see investment groups look at properties and visualize opportunities for business development including retail, office space, restaurant space, and other uses.”

The developments have launched a new city project: Ready, Set, Grow! This project sets an intentional vision for growth guided by the values of Bessemer City: community support, economic growth, business development, and quality of life. Some of the investments guided by this initiative include structural improvements in water, sewer, and natural gas, as well as Stinger Park, a new 40-acre recreational park complex.

The combination of public and private investments within and beyond Osage Mill will create an exciting vision for the future for Bessemer City. To Ross, the redevelopment of Osage Mill isn’t the extent of this potential, but just the start of it.

“We want to be a progressive, sustainable, smart, and desirable community for all,” Ross says. “We are just getting started.”