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Round 3 in NoDa mills bidding war could become round 4 come Monday

Now in round three, the bidding war for two historic NoDa mills will go into round four if companies file upset bids Monday to redevelop the properties.

The Community Builders Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based affordable-housing developer, put in a $1.02 million winning upset bid before the previous March 3 deadline, beating out Merrifield Patrick Vermillion, which submitted its own upset bid 10 days earlier of $925,000, said Peter Zeiler, Charlotte’s transit station area development coordinator.

Each winning upset bid kicks off another 10-day period during which the competing companies can make a counteroffer. To be considered, upset bids have to be at least 10 percent more than the previous winning bid, Zeiler said.

Community Builders submitted the original highest bid of $610,000 for the Johnston and Mecklenburg Mills, which are just north of uptown, when the city put them up for sale in February. At least 20 percent of the residential units in the project will be set aside for low-income families, Zeiler said.

Rob Fossi, Community Builders’ vice president and regional director for the mid-Atlantic, said the company’s plans including building work force housing within the two mills designed for middle-income families. Fossi said his company plans to develop the site in partnership with neighborhood and city officials.

Ark Management and M&J are the other two companies involved in the bidding war. Noah Lazes, president of Ark, the developer behind the North Carolina Music Factory in uptown, said he’s leaning toward submitting another upset bid, but he isn’t sure.

“At this point it’s pretty top-heavy,” said Lazes, who offered a $671,000 upset bid during the last round.

Merrifield Patrick Vermillion and M&J did not return phone calls.

Zeiler said that at this point only the four companies involved in the bidding process can continue to make offers. During prebidding, the companies paid a 5 percent deposit of their initial bid and submitted qualifying documentation.

Zeiler said it’s unlikely that construction at the mills will start this year. Once the final bid is awarded, the winning company has to develop architectural plans and apply for permits.

The two massive, vacant brick buildings in NoDa were built in the late 1800s during the heyday of the textile industry. After the mills shut down in the early to mid-1970s, they were converted to affordable housing in the early 1990s, but the project went bankrupt in 2006, Zeiler said. Another effort to turn the mills into a mixed-use development including low-income housing fizzled in 2008.

Zeiler said the bidding process will continue until the county gets the highest offer.

“We hope we get another upset bid, but I really don’t have a good sense whether we’ll get another one or not at this point,” he said.

Sam Boykin can be reached at sam.boykin@mecktimes.com.

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