Neighbors of the Beacon Manufacturing property in Swannanoa have received letters indicating that the property is fit for development.
Gordon Myers, one of two parties that own the site, said last week that a few people are interested in the 40-acre property but that none have committed to buying it. Neighbors received the letters to satisfy state law that they be notified that the property, once the largest producer of blankets in the nation, is a “brownfields” property that was contaminated by harmful chemicals.
Contaminants at the Beacon site have been cleaned up to the state Department of Environmental Quality’s satisfaction, said Myers, who owns the property equally with the Robert P. Ingle Living Trust. The “brownfield agreement” that the LLC and the state have entered into ensures subsequent buyers that the property poses an environmental risk no longer.
A handful of prospective buyers have called Myers since the agreement was reached, he said.
The six stories of the 1 million-square-foot Beacon Manufacturing building burned over the course of three days in 2003, a year after the plant closed. The fire, sparked by an arsonist, ended the company’s 80-year run in Swannanoa, a run that began in 1923 when Charles Owen purchased a large tract of land in the valley and relocated his blanket factory from New Bedford, Massachusetts. The mill employed as many as 2,200 people.
Making mostly cotton blankets but also wool ones during World War II, Beacon stored petroleum products above and below ground on the site, according to the brownfields agreement. Other “concerns” on the site cited by the agreement included the mill’s dye operations and electrical transformer equipment.
The brownfields agreement “is the first step in a process to sell or lease the site,” Myers said. He said he has no plans to develop the property. But he said he envisions the site being developed into apartments, condos and/or retail space, or perhaps as industrial or warehouse space.
Myers, a former Ingles executive, is a private developer in Fairview. Myers and the Robert P. Ingle Living Trust bought the property in March 2005.