Have you been noticing all the construction happening in downtown High Point? We sure hope you have! And by now, you probably know the reason behind the major renovations on English Road: Congdon Yards.
If you have questions about the buzz around the buildings, what they’re going to be, and how they’re going to change the way you see High Point’s downtown, you’ve come to the right place! We got the inside scope on Congdon Yards from Rachel Moss, Chief Operating Officer at Business High Point. Rachel has been affectionately dubbed “The Brains” behind Congdon Yards and is the person in charge of the countless details to pull off a project of this magnitude.
Just how big is this project you might ask? We’re talking millions. And where did this money come from? Hint – take a look at the name.
“It’s incredible how much commitment the Congdon family has put into making this project successful,” Rachel says. She explains how a $1.5 million matching grant from the State kickstarted the project, but the Earl and Kathryn Congdon Family Foundation has made the vision a reality.
The Congdons, who founded the Old Dominion Freight Line, have been pillars in the High Point community for years. David Congdon, Chairman of the Business High Point Board and President of the Congdon Foundation serves as “The Mastermind” behind the project. He has not only planned the space but helped to finance the project with a more than $30 million gift through the Congdon Foundation.
“David grew up here, so his family is extremely committed. He wants to keeping families here and businesses downtown,” Rachel says. “He wants to have High Point become the high point of North Carolina again.”
How did David go about getting this project started? By keeping an eye out for space in the downtown area that could spark a new chapter in High Point’s history. When David learned Plant 7 was for sale, Congdon Yards got its first building. Less than a year later, The Factory was purchased. Now, Congdon Yards comprises Plant 7, The Factory, an upcoming event center, the Stickley building, and a courtyard space.
And each building serves a specific purpose within Congdon Yards’ bigger mission: to be the “third place” in our community.
“Business High Point’s CEO, Patrick Chapin, calls Congdon Yards, ‘the third place,’” Rachel explains. “You have your home, your church or work, but where do you go after that? We want to provide a space where people can come together to work, celebrate, and more.”
So what do the buildings in this third place offer? For starters, Plant 7 is a shared tenant space, meaning that multiple companies will be headquartered in the center of downtown. The space also offers co-working areas and executive suites, individual offices available for short-term leases by smaller businesses. On the first floor is The Commons, a public space for the community that includes board rooms and a café to host lunch and coffee meetings.
In addition to The Commons, Plant 7 will be home to a one-of-a-kind space called The Generator. But the Generator transcends the typical makers’ space.
“There’s nowhere around the world that has a space like this,” Rachel says. Designed in partnership with local designers, Taylor West and Justin Stabb, the Generator offers state-of-the-art equipment to the thriving design community in High Point.
“High Point has these people who work out of their garages, designing these amazing pieces of furniture, but they don’t have access to equipment to take their business to the next level,” Rachel says. “We thought, what if we provided the equipment they needed to scale up their businesses?”
Congdon Yards partnered with a global company, SCM Woodworking Technology and received 10 pieces of equipment as an in-kind donation. These woodworking and metalworking machines offer interior designers, furniture designers, and architects the ability to build prototypes and products to make their creative visions come to life.
This distinctive space is already leading creatives outside of the City to choose to locate their businesses in High Point. Drawing creatives and new businesses to downtown has been a huge portion of Congdon Yards’ goal.
“We have such a vast array of talent. We have so many unique businesses in High Point,” Rachel says. “But that collaborative creative space is what’s missing in High Point.”
Along with all the innovative offerings at Plant 7, The Factory will be home to The Lofts, a premier event space. Event space, dressing room space, suites, and more are available through The Lofts, making it the perfect place to host beautiful events right in the heart of downtown.
“We are also developing the two middle floors of The Lofts,” Rachel adds. “There will be a restaurant on the second floor and a wine and tapas on the first floor.”
All the excitement surrounding Congdon Yards, however, is only the beginning of a new chapter in High Point’s history. The project, overseen by Business High Point and the Congdon Foundation, hopes to be the catalyst to continue growth downtown.
“The goal is for Congdon Yards to spur on private development in downtown,” Rachel explains. “We project $185 million of private development over the next three to five years.”
She cites additional private development in the works downtown, like the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum, the Montlieu project, Peters Development, the upcoming apartments and food hall, and more.
“All of that is happening at the same time that Plant 7 is going up,” Rachel says. “All of this is also happening during COVID-19 when everything has been locked down. When people emerge and go back to work, they’re going to see Congdon Yards and all the development around it.”
While private developers can move projects along quickly, they still have to work closely with the City to adhere to zoning laws and regulations. And when it comes to working with the City, Rachel says she’s never seen a partnership like the one between the City of High Point and private developers.
“I tip my hat to the City of High Point. They have been amazing throughout this entire project,” she says, naming times the City was willing to hop on a Zoom call or come for a site visit to keep the project humming along. “They have worked hand-in-hand to make sure this project stays on track.”
Rachel says that the team members in the public sector – City Council, Mayor Wagner, the city manager, the permit department, the fire department – have all been just a phone call away. And private entities on the team, like the Congdon Foundation and interior design firm, Barbour Spangle Design, have been champions of the vision from the beginning.
“Everyone is on the same page. Everyone wants to see High Point succeed,” Rachel says. “We all have one goal: to see High Point become the best High Point we can be.”