News Flash


Posted on: March 10, 2021

HPC members tour historic renovation project

An 3D Google Earth photo showing Blue Bell, Steele Cotton Mill, and the freight depot

Developer Yorke Lawson recently gave a tour of the Blue Bell apartment project to a few members of the City's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

"This is a historic project in more ways than one," Planning Director Jenny Wheelock said. "It's preserving a piece of history, and it’s the first project to be developed under the City’s new preservation ordinance as a local landmark." 

Lawson and Tom Niemann started developing the Blue Bell Plant, Steele Cotton Mill, and the freight depot several years ago.  The partners are building 46 market-rate apartments in the former Blue Bell mill. They plan build up to 60 more residential units in Steele Cotton Mill. The freight depot will be designated for commercial use. While discussing their development plans with City staff, Lawson and Niemann said that having local historic landmark was an important and needed element in pushing the project forward.

In 2018, the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (HPO) completed an architectural survey of Lenoir to identify historic buildings, landscapes, and districts in the City. Blue Bell, Steele Cotton Mill, and the depot were all mentioned in the State survey. The following year, the City of Lenoir established a new Historic Preservation Commission. Later in 2019, the HPC designated Blue Bell, Steele Cotton Mill, and the freight depot as local historic landmarks. These are the first three properties the City HPC designated as local historic landmarks in Lenoir. 

When a property is designated a local landmark, the owners get tax benefits in exchange for following strict preservation standards established by the Secretary of the Interior. The original features like windows, brick, and the iconic smoke stack are required to be preserved. The HPC issued a certificate of appropriateness (COA) for the project in 2020. It was the first COA ever issued in Lenoir.

"The HPC also reviewed all of the plans for Blue Bell prior to any zoning or building permits being issued to ensure key elements would be preserved as the developers renovated the building," Wheelock said.

A local historic landmark designation gives property owners access to state and federal tax credits. The State of North Carolina offers tax credits for historic preservation projects. The local landmark status gives the building a 50% property tax break and the National Register status gives the property Historic Preservation Tax Credits

"Lots of times, tax credits can make or break a development project," Wheelock said. "Thankfully, City Council saw the value in creating an HPC, and the HPC saw the value in designating local historic landmark status to these three properties. This is an amazing project that will save and reuse some of the City's most historic buildings."

The three properties are known collectively as "Lenoir Mills Campus." The Blue Bell phase of the Lenoir Mills will be an approximately $14 million investment. The Steele Mill and Depot projects could be about $16.5 million and $1.75 million investments, respectively.

Lawson said his developments goals have always been to bring historic buildings back to life and help boost the local economies where his projects are located. 

"Tom and I always wanted to work on mills," Lawson said. "We wanted to take valuable historic building stock, give it an extended life, and bring it back into the working economy. Once Blue Bell is restored, it'll last another 100 years."

Having people living in the Blue Bell apartments and possibly living in the Steel Cotton Mill will be significant boost to Downtown Lenoir, the City proper, and Caldwell County.

"First, the people have to come," Lawson said. "Having people living in these apartments in downtown will boost the need for the goods and services in downtown. That will likely draw more commercial shops into downtown and Lenoir."

Related articles:

Yorke Lawson talks to members of the Historic Preservation Commission in front of Blue Bell

Yorke Lawson, yellow hat, discusses the Lenoir Mills project with members of the City Historic Preservation Commission Thursday, March 4, 2021, in front of the Blue Bell building. Pictured from right to left, Marta Lazo, Lucy McCarl (HPC chair), and Sharon Bryant.

An 3D Google Earth photo showing Blue Bell, Steele Cotton Mill, and the freight depot

The Lenoir Mills Development consists of the Blue Bell Apartments, Steele Cotton Mill, and freight depot. The HPC gave landmark status to all three properties in 2019. The dotted pink line is an unpaved section of the Overmountain National Historic Trail (OVNHT) that runs through Lenoir. The solid pink line is a paved section of the OVNHT. Click here to check out this view on Google Earth.

Public Hearing on Historic Landmark Ordinance

Below is the public hearing, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, on granting historic landmark status to Blue Bell, Steele Cotton Mill, and the freight depot.

Facebook Twitter Email

Other News in News

Love Letters for Local neon heart with Downtown Lenoir banner in background

Show some love to local businesses

Posted on: February 2, 2023
Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month in Lenoir

Posted on: February 1, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration

Posted on: January 12, 2023
smart phone key pad

Know who to call for City services

Posted on: December 30, 2022
Sorry, We're Closed

Christmas and New Year's closings

Posted on: December 20, 2022
Boil Water Advisory Canceled, Tap Water Safe to Drink

Tap water in Bushtown now safe to drink

Posted on: December 15, 2022

Council meeting canceled

Posted on: December 15, 2022
GivingTuesday logo 2022

GivingTuesday in Lenoir

Posted on: November 28, 2022
Shop Small logo 2022

Shop Small this Saturday in Lenoir

Posted on: November 23, 2022
Sorry, We're Closed

City facilities closed for Thanksgiving

Posted on: November 18, 2022
Santa listens to the Christmas wishes of a young girl during Light Up Lenoir, Nov. 21, 2019

Light Up Lenoir next week in Downtown

Posted on: November 10, 2022
Happy Veterans Day

City facilities closed for Veterans Day

Posted on: November 8, 2022
Wilson basketball

Youth basketball registration open

Posted on: November 8, 2022
A close up of the City Clock in Downtown Lenoir, Oct. 31, 2022

City removing old clock tower

Posted on: November 1, 2022
road work ahead sign

City paving streets next week

Posted on: October 28, 2022
Downtown Lenoir logo square

City developing new Downtown Master Plan

Posted on: October 19, 2022
Truck performing leaf pickup

Leaf collection starts in November

Posted on: October 17, 2022
NWS Hurricane Ian track as of 11:34 am Friday, Sept. 29, 2022

Be prepared for flooding, power outages

Posted on: September 29, 2022
Santa Claus with dancers in the 2021 Starry Night Christmas Parade in Downtown Lenoir

Christmas parade application online

Posted on: September 27, 2022
City Seal 2017

Tomorrow's City Council meeting canceled

Posted on: September 19, 2022
American Flag, Photo by David Dibert

Council honors Patriot Day in Lenoir

Posted on: September 9, 2022
Council presents the 40th Anniversary resolution to Caldwell Rotary Club, Sept. 6, 2022

Council honors Caldwell Rotary Club

Posted on: September 8, 2022
Baseball glove, baseball and bat

Fall baseball registration ends Friday

Posted on: August 17, 2022
City LNR icon

Weekend events in Lenoir

Posted on: July 1, 2022
Fireworks explode during the 2018 July 4th Fireworks show

July 4th fireworks and closings

Posted on: June 29, 2022
Council presents a resolution to Mac Martin honoring 17 years of service on the Planning Board

Council honors Mac Martin

Posted on: June 8, 2022
Kids swimming in the outdoor pool at the Lenoir Aquatic and Fitness Center

Outdoor pool opens tomorrow

Posted on: May 27, 2022
City of Lenoir 2020 NC3C Excellence in Communications Awards

City wins communications awards

Posted on: May 10, 2022
City of Lenoir Police Telecommunicators Rhonda Hollowell and Dustin Eller

Council honors Telecommunicators

Posted on: May 4, 2022
City worker loads compost into a trailer

Compost giveaway #2 this Saturday

Posted on: April 19, 2022
Easter Eggs of various colors

Easter Egg Hunt next Saturday

Posted on: April 1, 2022
City worker loads compost into a trailer

Compost giveaway this Saturday

Posted on: March 31, 2022
road work ahead sign

Paving on Beall Street tomorrow

Posted on: March 28, 2022
Beall Street and Holly Court street sign

No parking on Beall Street Thursday

Posted on: March 22, 2022
Leprechaun Chase square social media banner

Leprechaun Chase back for round two

Posted on: March 10, 2022
Water line break graphic

Water line break on US 321

Posted on: February 11, 2022
Ben Willis

City Council honors Ben Willis

Posted on: January 24, 2022
Sgt. James Moore staff photo

City Council honors Sgt. James Moore

Posted on: January 21, 2022
Garbage Cart Placement Graphic

Tuesday garbage collection postponed

Posted on: January 18, 2022
were hiring, come work for the City of Lenoir

Job openings with the City of Lenoir

Posted on: January 5, 2022

State and local burn bans lifted

Posted on: December 14, 2021
City of Lenoir Public Utiliities

Council approves bid to replace sewer line

Posted on: December 10, 2021
A single luminary illuminated at night at Blue Ridge Memorial Park, Dec. 152017

Luminary display postponed to Dec. 17

Posted on: December 8, 2021
Lieutenant John Howard

Howard promoted to Police lieutenant

Posted on: December 7, 2021
burn ban icon

City of Lenoir issues burn ban

Posted on: December 3, 2021
Construction equipment sits on the new, partially graded section of Hotel Street

Hotel Street project underway

Posted on: November 23, 2021
Sorry, We're Closed

City facilities closed for Thanksgiving

Posted on: November 22, 2021
Council members, business owners, and employees hold up letters that spell out Shine On Shop Small

Mayor proclaims Small Business Saturday

Posted on: November 19, 2021
Workers paving Bethel Colony Road yesterday, Nov. 16, 2021

Contractors paving streets this week

Posted on: November 17, 2021
Korean War veterans watch Korean children perform during the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary o

Veterans Day ceremony in Downtown Lenoir

Posted on: November 9, 2021
Star Steps dancers perform in Downtown Lenoir during the 2018 Christmas Parade

Christmas parade set for Dec. 3

Posted on: October 29, 2021
basketball on gym floor at MLK Jr Center

Youth basketball registration open

Posted on: October 25, 2021
Truck performing leaf pickup

Leaf collection starts in November

Posted on: October 25, 2021

Boil Water Advisory Lifted

Posted on: October 9, 2021
water boiling in a pot on a stove

Boil Water Advisory!

Posted on: October 9, 2021
Ladies walking on the Lenoir Greenway

Section of greenway closed Tuesday morning

Posted on: September 27, 2021
The Aquamarine sculpture by Mike Roig located on the City of Lenoir greenway

Sculpture Celebration this weekend

Posted on: September 8, 2021
LPD Silver Car, Aug. 8, 2021

Lenoir police car getting new look

Posted on: August 10, 2021
FraXured performing live in 2014

Lenoir Connect, August 2021

Posted on: August 5, 2021
Jeff Holland sitting on the Ventrac at Mulberry Rec

It mows, it sweeps, it trims!

Posted on: July 15, 2021
Lenoir Local logo

Lenoir Local: Meet Mayor Gibbons

Posted on: July 6, 2021
Lenoir Local logo

City of Lenoir starts new podcast

Posted on: June 28, 2021
A side of the house at 1921 Marigold Ln before demolition

City cleans up two properties

Posted on: June 8, 2021
general fund expenses chart

Council approves 2021-2022 budget

Posted on: June 4, 2021
K9 Atos

Council welcomes new K9 Team

Posted on: June 4, 2021
Bloom blast plants

Bloom Blast in Downtown Lenoir

Posted on: May 25, 2021
payroll clerk counting money

COVID impact aid still available

Posted on: May 20, 2021
Workers pave Victoria Court in Lenoir, NC

Paving is in the air

Posted on: April 12, 2021
Screen shot of the Council zoom meeting

Council sets priorities for 2021

Posted on: March 4, 2021
Winter Weather Delay

City Hall opening on delay

Posted on: February 17, 2021
Icy pine tree (Pinus sp.) branches after an ice storm; Boxborough, Massachusetts

Be prepared for severe weather

Posted on: February 17, 2021