From the 1950s to the ’80s, Lawrence Knitting Mills was buzzing — cotton came in, knitted goods went out. New jobs were posted almost daily in the Observer‘s classified section.
In the 30 years since the mill closed, Charlotte grew up and out. The skyline inched taller and the Blue Line expanded north, whizzing behind the now-vacant mill.
Apartments and retailers, offices and restaurants opened in buildings just like this one. Now it’s this old mill’s turn.
In 2021, the 18,000-square-foot building will reopen with a food hall, offices, and retail space. Next door, a 15,000-square-foot warehouse will become the second location for popular South End restaurant and bar Seoul Food Meat Co. Connecting the two will be an expansive backyard, one of the largest outdoor spaces in the area, and a connection point to the XCLT Trail.
The adaptive-reuse project will be called Lintmen’s, a nod to the nickname given to textile workers who’d return home covered in lint: the “lint heads.”
“This is the type of building that built Charlotte,” Paul Kardous says of the old Lawrence mill and the textile industry that once boomed in the region.
Kardous, 41, is an architect, developer, and Charlotte native. The son of Kal Kardous, the well-known businessman and local personality behind Charlotte Copy Data, he’s watched many of the city’s old and well-built buildings of the 20th century disappear into the dirt. He’s seen three-story townhomes replace the Habitat for Humanity homes he helped to build as a teenager just down the road from Lintmen’s.
He didn’t want that to happen here.
The mill building isn’t on the historic registry. There’s very little in newspaper archives about its operations, just job postings and obituaries of retired workers.
“Some of these old buildings, they’re not super sexy,” says Kardous, partner at Pamaka and the developer of the project. “But we should respect it … and make it have a new life.”
Located at 2315 North Davidson Street, the former mill straddles neighborhood lines between Optimist Park, Villa Heights, and NoDa.
Depending on who you ask, they might say it’s in either of the three.
Kardous says it’s in Optimist Park, which means the neighborhood just north of Uptown has more textile mills-turned-food halls than anywhere else in Charlotte.
The food hall at Lintmen’s, called Urban District Market, is its second. The other, Optimist Hall, just passed its one-year anniversary and is home to 18 and counting tenants. Once open, UDM will have 12 food stalls inside the main hall area.
The food hall is fully leased, Kardous says. The restaurants are all local, but he wouldn’t name any. “I’ll let the tenants lead on their announcements.” (Hey tenants, what’s up? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org it you want to chat.)
So far, only one tenant has been confirmed: Seoul Food Meat Co., which will be located at 421 East 26th Street.
Known for its Korean-inspired wings and karaoke rooms, Seoul Food’s new location is even bigger than its South End spot at 27,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. A restaurant representative says this is just one step in Seoul’s larger expansion.Both the former mill and the new Seoul Food space were designed by Cluck Design Collaborative, and Urban Design Partners is the landscape architect for the space. There’s still 8,000 square feet for office or retail use available for lease.
“Lintmen’s will be a hub of activity in a unique setting,” says Brooks Whiteside of Whiteside Properties, which represented Pamaka on the acquisition and represented the landlord and tenants for the Seoul Food and food hall leases.
It’s been a long time since the old Lawrence Knitting Mills was anything close to a “hub,” but the building is ready for its second act.