From the front, the old Peerless Woolen Mills in Rossville looks on the hopeless side — old brick blackened in many spots, dirty broken windows, dilapidated fencing — but deeper into the huge complex there is life and it’s growing.
On Tuesday, April 9, one of the co-owners of Peerless Mills, Bobby Wilson, spoke to a meeting of the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group to let the public know how things are going with the old mill location that he and fellow investor Arthell Gray are working to revitalize.
The front building of the mill, Wilson told the crowd of about 75 gathered at Mission Glen Baptist Church, cannot be touched until the state returns its verdict on how to deal with the asbestos and other environmental hazards it found there during an inspection. “We can’t just go in and start tearing stuff down,” Wilson said.
But other things are happening. Wilson said Praters Flooring occupies a large area in another building on the nearly 27-acre property and has just contracted to expand its production at the location. “We’re doing a 40,000-square-foot expansion for them,” said Wilson. “The building just came in today. It will take four to five months to erect.”
Wilson says Praters plans to move 70-80 workers from its Chattanooga location to Rossville and is talking about moving its entire operation there.
Praters designs, produces and installs floor graphics and floors, both permanent and portable, for the NBA, the NCAA and other businesses and groups. It has done floors for the Olympics and for many schools, including Georgia Tech, Covenant College, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Heritage High School, Heritage Middle School and Ringgold Middle School.
Another project in the works for part of the Peerless property is a restaurant on a corner. Wilson didn’t say what sort of eatery it would be. He said he’s still working with the city of Rossville on zoning for it.
Wilson said that feedback from Georgia Tech consultants who are helping the city come up with revitalization plans will play a part in the decisions he and Gray make about moving forward with their business project.
“We’re tickled to death about the investment being made in the Peerless Mills site,” says David Roden, one of the founders of the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group. “We really appreciate the update they came to give us. If what happens with Peerless is good, more good will follow. Rossville has a lot to offer — fiber optics, plenty of water, a rail line.”
The owners of Peerless made just one of the presentations at the April 9 WRNG meeting. Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, a cofounder of WRNG, also offered updates on his department, as did representatives of emergency services, Redev Workshop (a group of volunteers devoted to redevelopment in Rossville), and Ridgeland Youth Athletic Academy (a new athletic group dedicated to bringing more opportunity and unity to youth sports).