Funds will aid in mills' rebirth

WARRENVILLE --- Community and government leaders gathered Wednesday at one of the old mills they hope to revitalize with federal stimulus money.


The goal is to have mills in Graniteville, Vaucluse and Warrenville assessed, cleaned and transformed into mixed-use developments with retail, housing and office space. Reginal Barner, an official involved with the project, said it could take 10 to 15 years to finish work at all the sites, with more than 500 jobs being created in an area hit hard by mill closings.

Speaking at Warrenville Mill, Mr. Barner said some development could start within 24 months.

"I can't hardly breathe because of this thing coming to Graniteville," said Louisiana Wright, of the Graniteville Community Coalition, a group established to help those with needs after the 2005 Graniteville train wreck in which nine people died. "...This is something we've dreamed of. And this is just the beginning."

Mr. Barner said the $600,000 in stimulus funding awarded and $200,000 received by the county last year from a federal grant will help with an initial assessment of what chemicals and other contaminants need to be cleaned up at mill sites and a steam plant. The mills -- Warrenville, Vaucluse, Hickman, and Gregg -- have 1.9 million square feet to assess and clean, Mr. Barner said, to make it development-friendly.

He said officials will apply for federal grant money for the cleanup once assessment work is finished. He said an investor is already lined up to help with development. Revitalization, he said, is estimated at $200 million.

As part of the revitalization of the Warrenville site, Mr. Barner said research opportunities included a push to woo contractors at Savannah River Site to set up offices.

"We know they need additional space," he said, referring to how SRS is in line for stimulus money for projects and new jobs.

Those at the announcement said they were thrilled to see the plan get started.

"It's certainly a wonderful day for Aiken County," County Council Chairman Ronnie Young said, adding that he once worked for the Graniteville Co. and looks forward to seeing life at the old mills.

"We have the opportunity to bring that back," he said.

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