Site of Former Greenville County Mill One Step Closer to Redevelopment

Could take as much as 10 years for developers to clear environmental requirements.


The site of a former Upstate mill is one step closer to development after Greenville County leaders approved its rezone Tuesday night.

But, it could still be years before ground breaks on the site of the former Union Bleachery Mill near the Sans Souci section of Greenville.

“We really see how wonderful this could be in the community and takes what’s been just a terrible eyesore and, frankly, dangerous to the community and turn it into something that would be more than an asset. It would be an attraction,” said Warren Zinn, who is a co-owner of the project with Dean Warhaft. The entity developing the property is Cone Mills Acquisition Group LLC.

The plan is to turn the roughly 240-acre property into a mixed-use development known as “On the Trail” which is a play on words of the nearby Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The space would likely offer apartments, townhomes, affordable housing, retail space, office space, and even some outdoor areas, said Zinn.

The Union Bleachery mill, in operation for roughly 100 years, shut down after a fire in 2003.

By 2011, the property was placed on the EPA’s Superfund list.

The EPA and DHEC are working with the Warhaft Group to determine the best steps to take moving forward.

“Which would involve sort of segregating the areas that don’t have any environmental issues, of which, there’s a large portion,” said Zinn. “And then dealing with the remaining site that does have the environmental issues and getting those remediated. It’s going to take years of work and really getting your hands dirty.”

Scott Martin, remedial project manager of the site for the EPA, said the two main focus areas for restoration are groundwater and ground underneath and in the surrounding area of the former mill.

He said about 150 acres of the space is classified as No Action Record of Decision, which means it is essentially ready for development and poses no human health or ecological risk.

But, he said, depending on the situation, there’s a chance groundwater restoration could take up to 10 years.

“It really just depends on once we get in;” he said. “Typically, the way we handle something like this is we take another substance and inject it into the groundwater to remediate whatever chemicals are in the groundwater. And how effective that is depends on how much distribution we get and so we won’t really know until we can go out there and do the remedial design but hopefully it won’t take 20 years but I could see 10 or more years to do the groundwater.”

Martin said work on the ground, itself, could likely involve removing chunks of land from the property altogether.

Some nearby neighbors said they’re on board with development, but they wonder how it can be done safely.

“It would be nice if it was safe for people, but there’s a lot of contamination over there and I think they’d have to really make sure they had it cleaned up before they could actually build anything,” Ann Ferguson said.

Zinn didn’t rule out developing in phases. He said the group will likely have a better idea of renderings of the potential design during the next few weeks.