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End of an Era

SoVaNow.com / December 26, 2012
Once one of Southside Virginia’s largest employers, the Burlington Industries plant in Clarksville is quickly being reduced to rubble — from which, the new owner hopes, a successor company will arise.

The process of tearing down the Mecklenburg County industrial landmark began about three months ago when the owners of the site, M&R Acquisitions of Birmingham, Alabama, brought in an Alabama contractor specializing in asbestos abatement to assess the environmental issues. It’s only been the last few weeks that demolition has taken place.

“The demolition work should be completed by mid-2013,” said Erwin Raughley, a principal with M&R Acquisitions. The deadline is contingent on cooperative weather and demolition crews finding no surprises as they assess each building, deciding whether it can stay or go.

At this point Raughley won’t predict when the Burlington property will be ready for a developer. In an earlier interview, he said the clearing of old industrial sites can take up a year to accomplish. He also promised to work with the town, the county, and the state to find a tenant for the site.

“Everyone here [in Clarksville] has been so great to work with,” said Raughley. “I want whoever purchases the property to be good for the town. Whether that is a new industrial plant or something else, is for the town to decide.”

Burlington was once one of the world’s leading makers of fabrics, hosiery, carpets and other textile products, employing 2,200 people at its Clarksville plant.

The company went bankrupt in the early part of the previous decade, leaving vacant the Clarksville menswear facility and other Burlington factories dotting Southside Virginia. The local plant had been long dormant when M&R Acquisitions bought the property in July.

The company specializes in buying up old industrial properties, cleaning up contaminants, razing outmoded facilities, and fixing up what can be sold off.

Local realtor and developer Charlie Simmons, also a member of the Clarksville economic development authority, called the razing of Burlington Industries bittersweet. Bitter — in that when Burlington Industries was here, Clarksville was a much more vibrant town, filled with young families. But also sweet — because with the old buildings gone, the property holds a promise of new and better things to come for the community.

Officials describe the 88-acre site as prime industrial property, with abundant water from the lake, served by existing water and sewer lines, and near a working rail line.

M&R Acquisitions bought the long-defunct Burlington plant and grounds in July from an ownership group that includes Oxford, N.C., real estate agents Franklin W. Hancock and wife Ann Hancock, and developer Jim Gregory and Consolidated Development Corporation of Elizabeth City, N.C. The $1.5 million purchase price more than doubled the $700,000 that the group paid in 2004 to acquire the shuttered factory after the textile maker took bankruptcy.

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