Development Finance Initiative project wins N.C. Main Street Award

Interior of an apartment in the Grey Mill Apartments. Text reads "2021 Main Street: Pivoting for Prosperity! NC Main Street Virtual Conference, March 9-11, 2021"

The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the UNC School of Government has received an N.C. Main Street Award for “Best Adaptive Reuse Project” from the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center, part of the Department of Commerce.

The award is in recognition of DFI’s work on the Grey Hosiery Mill reuse project in Hendersonville, N.C. DFI served as one of several partner organizations on the revitalization project, which converted the vacant 1910s Grey Mill in downtown Hendersonville into 35 rental apartments for workforce and moderate income residents. As of October 2020, the building has 100 percent occupancy.

“The adaptive reuse of the mill shows how creative public-private partnerships can result in transformative development,” said Tyler Mulligan, DFI director and Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Term Professor of Public Law and Government. “I remember touring the mill when it was vacant and private developers weren’t interested in it. The City of Hendersonville and DFI recognized its potential. We’re thrilled that the City and its residents will enjoy this historic mill for decades to come.”

DFI work on the project included pre-development services: downtown parcel analysis to understand current conditions in the City of Hendersonville, public engagement, financial feasibility, and more. The DFI team ultimately helped the City identify a redevelopment plan and select the right partner to realize the City’s vision for the site. DFI shares the award with the City of Hendersonville, developer Belmont Sayre, Land of Sky Regional Council, and Tise-Kiester Architects.

“This award is a testament to the dedication the City of Hendersonville has shown in breathing life back into this building and the expertise of the development team,” said Rory Dowling, DFI development advisor.

Nine communities received a total of 12 awards for excellence in downtown revitalization at the North Carolina Main Street and Small Town Main Street Awards Ceremony, held virtually on March 10. See the full list of honorees here.

“We are delighted to honor these remarkable communities and their award-winning projects,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “Not only did these projects create more jobs in rural communities, but they also sparked economic recovery and enhanced the historic and cultural assets of our state.”

The North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center is the coordinating program for the Main Street America program in the state. The organization helps small towns create vibrant central business districts, using local resources to preserve their historic fabric and build upon their unique characteristics. 

Launched in 2011 at the UNC School of Government, DFI partners with local governments to attract private investment for economic development projects. The initiative provides specialized finance and development expertise and brings transformative projects to life in North Carolina communities. Learn more at