Historic depot to be developed into business incubator

Some things are just worth saving—especially if they’ll be valuable in the future. That’s the case of the old Twin City railroad depot.

Mayor Matt Donaldson says he has had a personal desire to save the depot for a long time now. In that way, he is especially pleased to announce the City of Twin City’s acquisition of the space. Even better, the future plan for the depot will hopefully bring business (and subsequent revenue) to the town.

Historically, the depot served the rail lines that ran through Summit and Graymont. It once sat in the spot of the old Holden’s Service Station beside the bank. At more than 100-years-old, the depot’s history is rich, and the potential it has post-renovation is evident to the town’s leaders.

Mayor Donaldson, in a Thursday phone call last week, shed some background on the property’s changing of hands to city ownership and what that means moving forward, beginning with short-term plans to improve the locale.

The depot was previously owned by a private individual. Next door is a warehouse owned by the same person.

The city commission became aware of the owner’s desire to sell, and the town’s governing body entered into negotiations. The final transaction for both buildings came in at $56,000 ($30,000 for the depot and $26,000 for the warehouse). This, Mayor Donaldson feels, was a solid deal, given a few factors.

First, the bones of the depot are in great shape. This means the renovations that will take place in approximately the next year will be address the visual of the space, not the structural integrity.

Secondly, the warehouse is already set to automatically generate revenue as a cabinet company already rents the space. Thus, the city will monetarily benefit from inheriting the tenant starting Day 1 when the sale contract is finalized.

This entire deal involves the Twin City Development Authority, who has been brought on as a partner of sorts. The authority’s role is to brainstorm ideas as the project unfolds and, most importantly, network the space to potential lessees when the time comes.

Right now, the city does not have a specific vision in mind for the type of company that will inhabit what’s being dubbed a “business incubator.” The mayor says he and the city commissioners are open to pretty much anything, although they would admittedly be pleased to see a retailer of some sort move into the depot.

The space itself is pretty large, according to Mayor Donaldson, which opens up the possibility of the depot becoming home to more than one business alone. Once work begins, the city may elect to subdivide the location into multiple spaces instead of a large singular one.

As with any city project, the depot undertaking will require a degree of funding. Mayor Donaldson was forthcoming about the city’s intention to pay for the project. Twin City will be applying for a Rural Business Development Grant through the USDA. This federal pot of money comes with no maximum amount, but literature on the USDA website notes “smaller requests are given higher priority.” Perhaps of most interest to Twin City taxpayers is this program, should Twin City be approved to participate, comes with no cost sharing requirement.

City officials have yet to assign a dollar amount to the project as it is, as of this writing, in the earliest of phases.

Likewise, they haven’t nailed down a timeline yet. The contract for the transaction is set to be closed on by the end of May, and the first steps in seeking funding will take place in the summer. Work, Mayor Donaldson said, could begin as early as next year.

“We’re still early in this project,” Mayor Donaldson said, “so we’re still feeling our way through. It will definitely be a longer-term project. We haven’t decided what we’ll do with the building. We know we don’t want to do anything too ‘specific.’ We instead want to leave it ‘open’ for any kind of business. We believe this big building could become something really pretty and attractive to business owners. We see the potential, and we are hopeful others will as well. Best of all, it will add revenue for the city.”

Anyone interested in this project or the possibility of leasing the depot once renovations are complete should email Mayor Donaldson. He can be reached at mdonaldson@twincityga.com.

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