Debate over Swift Mill rezoning

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  In the heart of Columbus lies the Swift Mill. Some say the landmark has seen better days.

Pace Burt, an Albany-based developer wants to convert the site off 6th Avenue into residential lofts, offices and possibly even retail units.

"We feel very good about this project. It's going to be a $25 million project. Starting with Phase 1, there will be 35 2-bedroom, 2-bath lofts and 24,000 feet of office space," explained Ernie Smallman who is a commercial real estate broker for the developer.

In order to do that, the property has to be rezoned by the city.

But Norfolk Southern officials and some city council members are worried about the federally-mandated train horns and constant freight traffic rolling by the property, not to mention safety risks for those living and working in close proximity to the rail yard.

"We've put the parking in the rear and the buildings that are closest to the rail yard-one of them is going to remain a warehouse and the other, we're going to put some storage units in the rear to buffet the sound. Every one of these loft developments that has been done has a railroad beside it or near it and we don't see ourselves being any different than that," Smallman added.

"It's an area that needs to be redeveloped because no one's going to put a building or anything in the old Swift building. The railroad is concerned about the traffic and the noise but that's a problem all over town. I don't have a problem with it. I think it ought to be developed," said Councilor Red McDaniel of District 8.

The rezoning will be brought up again at Columbus Council's next meeting in July and members are scheduled to vote on it.

If the developer gets approval, construction will start in four to six months.

Smallman says loft units at the mill will run $900 per month.

©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.