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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Deardorff

Commercial Architecture Snapshot: Converting Converse Mill to Lofts



OPPORTUNITY: Adapt a former textile mill, located in Spartanburg, SC, to one-, two- and three-loft apartments, preserving and renovating the building’s interior and exterior as much as possible, creating living areas in the annex and opening the mill building's roof to develop an open-air courtyard.


CLIENT: Experienced developer specializing in renovating old Southern mills.


OTHER PROJECT INFLUENCERS: State Historic Preservation Office, US Secretary of Interior’s Historic Preservation Standards and US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


OUR EXPERTISE AREAS:

  • Historical preservation

  • Adaptive reuse of commercial structures

  • Renovation of interiors and exteriors

  • Zoning and permitting


CURRENT PROJECT STATUS: Renovation work is complete; awaiting the Certificate of Occupancy.


UPCOMING MILESTONES: Tenants should begin moving in March 2024.


The Back Story



The late nineteenth-century Converse Mill, once a producer of textiles, is tucked along the Pacolet River in the rolling hills of upstate South Carolina. Located six miles northwest of downtown Spartanburg, Converse Mill has a storied past. It was built and rebuilt several times over its 120-plus years, cementing its place and presence in local history.

After sitting neglected and untouched for years, a developer with expertise in old mills looked to reinvent the weary property into luxury living apartments with historical charm. His project required the expertise of a talented, experienced team to fully develop his idea for loft-style apartment homes at this unique location. And our Jones Pierce Architects team was awarded the project because the developer knew us from another mill project and asked us for a renovation proposal.


Converse Mill property in Spartanburg, SC
Neglect and the elements did damage to the Converse Mill property, leaving only two structures intact enough for the developer to keep to bring his loft vision to life.

Initial First Impressions


When we first began our work on Converse Mill, we took on the full opportunity and the many challenges a huge project like this presented.


The mill’s ruins consisted of old granite retaining walls about two feet thick sitting near the dam that once generated power for the mill. The five-story masonry mill was initially constructed with heavy timber, a 14-foot clearance inside and massive 12-foot original windows. Most derelict buildings on the property were torn down except the mill and an adjacent two-story annex built from wood, brick and steel.


In 2014, we began working with the US Secretary of Interior's Historic Preservation standards to qualify for the project’s HUD financing. (HUD provides unique programs with specific requirements stipulating using their standards in exchange for funding.) We also worked with the State Historic Preservation Officer, the person responsible for helping to save historic places that matter and partnered with local historical groups.


To understand Converse Mill’s future, we had to know its past. We sourced dated mill photographs and poured over the images, noting large and small details, like the building’s original configuration and the white-trimmed windows. These photos, which captured the incredible features of the mill and the annex before they were lost to time and decay, played a crucial role in our plans for the property that was to be called Converse Mill Lofts.


“Before" and "During” Images, With “Afters” Coming Soon

Many of Converse Mill's original features — its great bones — were incorporated into the design of Converse Mill Lofts.


Our design for Converse Mill Lofts incorporated two light wells in the main mill building to bring daylight into the interior.


We were able to salvage some of the property's heavy, wooden doors, repairing and restoring them to their original condition, and replicating the authentic look on doors that couldn’t be saved.


Because brick corridors were originally painted white, we cleaned and repainted the bricks per the historical renovation requirements.


Our design plan successfully paired modern, sought-after conveniences with Converse Mill's historic elements.

The mill's light shaft, which opens to the roof, creates the right (and bright!) ambiance for the interior corridors.

Plumbers were just one of the dozens of contractors who played a part in the massive restoration of Converse Mill.

Old photos showed the building's windows with white trim, and we carried that look over to the design plan.

One of the last additions to the Converse Mill Lofts was to install a pool for residents to use.


Ready for Prime Time … and Residents!


Last fall, our work on Converse Mill wrapped up with the installation of a gorgeous new pool, parking lot paved and landscaping added to compliment the complex’s beautiful surroundings. (Coming soon – we’ll update this article with photos of the beautiful new and historically old Converse Mill Lofts. For now, see loft unit floor plans.)


Today, a full decade from our first strategic meeting with the developer, Converse Mill Lofts is at last ready for tenants. (This type of work takes time and involves many parties. And, remember, we went through a pandemic.)


The immense Converse Mill project gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our architecture firm’s fit as the right partner capable of navigating the many governmental requirements and considerations needed to preserve and renovate a historic structure. By the way, it’s only one of the many historical projects we’ve taken on over the 25-year history of our firm. The Gastonia, NC, Loray Mill, is one example.


Our Commercial Architect Team is Here to Help


If you’re a new or experienced developer who could benefit from having Jones Pierce Architect’s expertise on a historic renovation or multi-family project like Converse Mill, contact Cooper Pierce at 404.446.3882 or email us to schedule a call. We want to get to know you, hear your plans and share how we could help.


Our commercial architecture design portfolio includes highlights from these types of projects:

  • Adaptive Reuse

  • Amenities

  • Condos

  • Food Service

  • Infill Housing

  • Mixed Use

  • Non-profit

  • Rebranding

  • Renovation


About Jones Pierce Architects


Founded in 1997 by Bryan Jones and Cooper Pierce, our award-winning, Atlanta-based team includes architects, construction professionals and interior designers who partner with companies and individuals in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina and Tennessee.



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