Crowd gets a sneak peek at Prattville’s $37 million ‘gin shop’ project

PRATTVILLE – It was a cold night in Prattville to get a sneak peek at some of the hottest real estate in town.

About 200 people attended the November 17 event at The Mill in Prattville. Envolve Communities is building 127 loft-style apartments in the five historic masonry structures of the iconic downtown landmark.

The buildings at the bottom of Main Street, along the banks of Autauga Creek, known to locals as “The Gin Shop,” are why Prattville is here. Daniel Pratt founded the town that now bears his name in 1839. He chose the fall line of the creek to power his industrial empire, which began making cotton gins, and to support his town. He also added a cotton mill, sawmill, foundry and other industries to the site.

“So many people have worked here for so many years,” Johnson said. “The Gin Shop supported so many families. They saved our history.”

Pratt was a New England Yankee and his town reflects his heritage. Most Southern towns founded in the early 19th century were built around the concept of the courthouse. Pratt made the industrial area the hub of Prattville.

“No other city has this; these buildings, these views,” said Kea Calame, senior vice president of asset management at Envolve. She has been leading the project since its inception in 2015. The oldest building on the site dates from 1848 and the ‘newest’ building was built in 1912.

On this evening, several large screen televisions played behind Calame, showing images of the construction process and images of the downtown area.

“You can see that we’re marketing downtown Prattville as part of the attraction,” she said. “We want to complement the center and be part of the center and the future of the center.”

The $37 million project is more than just an apartment, much more. It is credited with saving much of the city’s history and beginning another round of downtown revitalization.

Several generations of Autauga County Sheriff Herbie Johnson’s retired family proudly worked at the Gin Shop. As a young man, before embarking on a decades-long career in law enforcement, Johnson lost the tip of a finger in an accident while working the floor of the Gin Shop.

“I never thought I’d see anything like this, not in these old buildings,” Johnson said, looking around a three-bedroom apartment with a view of the Mill Pond and Mill Pond Dam chamber of commerce.

Johnson’s father, Woodrow, known as ‘Daddy Bo’, designed the dam’s wooden lock gates.

That history is central to the construction of the apartments. There is a lot of exposed brick. The wooden beams, floors and beams have been cleaned, but remain important architectural features.

And the windows, man, the windows. The thousands of windows on the site were preserved and reworked to exact historical standards. In their industrial life, they offered lighting and ventilation. Now they offer spectacular views.

That’s what Julie Cooley sold. She and her husband, Casey, became the ninth landlords in the 1912 building. They chose a three-bedroom corner apartment on the third floor. It offers, you guessed it, a beautiful view of the mill pond and dam.

“I can’t believe I’m going to be in bed and this is my view for the rest of my life,” she said.

Casey Cooley is a colonel in the USAF Reserves. His military career has taken them through Prattville four times. Casey Cooley has about five years left before he retires.

“We always knew we wanted to go back to Prattville,” Julie said. “When this came up, we couldn’t resist. He’s a history nerd and I’m an architecture nerd. So it’s perfect for the two Prattville nerds.

The Cooleys have a little while to wait. There is still some work to be done in the 1912 building to button up the apartments. People should be able to move in from February.

The buildings themselves may be historic, but the apartments offer modern comforts. There are quartz countertops. The building from 1912 offers above all a common room on the first floor with a gym, mailboxes, a parcel delivery room and a kitchen.

“Just in case you’re inviting 20 people and need a little more space,” said Ashley Stoddart, community manager, as she led a tour.

Envolve, formerly LEDIC Realty, originally planned to build about 150 apartments on the site. The lower number reflects design changes, Calame said.

“We went with what the buildings gave us,” she said.

Each apartment is “like a snowflake,” says Kate Musgrove, outreach ambassador. The project offers apartments with one, two and three bedrooms

“No two are the same,” she said. “If you want a bedroom, you should still take a tour and look at what we offer, because every apartment is different.”

Outside, the industrial heart of the complex is preserved. Steel beams that once supported roofs remain over sidewalks and parking lots. The project is designed to be pedestrian friendly, with easy access to downtown shopping and dining.

That huge heartbeat for more than a century. At its peak, the Gin Shop was the largest cotton gin factory in the world. During World War II, it made 5-inch gun mounts for the Navy and casings for 250-pound bombs. Recently found files also show it built high-pressure steam and water lines for the Manhattan Project, the massive nationwide effort to build the nuclear bombs.

Local production ceased in 2012 when Continental Eagle shipped the work abroad.

The Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority purchased the sprawling site for $1.7 million on December 18, 2014, during the mortgage sale on the Autauga County Courthouse grounds.

The conservation group began marketing the property almost immediately.

The fear among history-loving Prattvillians was that these handmade bricks and pine beams, timbers and beams would leave town on the backs of flatbed trucks; that Prattville’s history would be relegated piecemeal to New Orleans projects. savannah. Charleston.

“That wouldn’t happen,” said Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr. That’s why this project is so important. It saved why Prattville is Prattville.

The effort took longer than expected. Unforeseen delays occurred. The historic nature of the project was complex, requiring significant red tape and approval from state and federal literacy agencies.

And the pandemic.

Gillespie said on November 17 that he never doubted that the project would be successful.

“There was such support,” he said. “You had people like Tom Newton at HPRA who never gave up. There were times when we had to agree to disagree. There were times when you could see that something seemed to be driving things.

“That’s why I never doubted that we would come here. It was too important.”

Contact Montgomery Advertiser-reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]

Leave a Comment