(p. B7) On a typical evening at the Wool Factory, a renovated textile mill in Charlottesville, Va., guests savor local wine and hors d’oeuvres in a spacious courtyard decorated with festive string lights. Between bites and sips, their eyes might gaze at the factory, a 100-year-old red brick building where as many as 200 workers once made military uniforms, but which now houses a fine-dining restaurant, a brewery and an event space.
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The Wool Factory is part of a larger effort by developers to convert grain, textile and water mills that came of age during the Industrial Revolution.
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“They’re incredible spaces to be in, with 15-foot-high ceilings and huge windows with great views, which makes them a desirable place to develop,” Catherine De Almeida, an assistant professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington in Seattle.
. . . the ample open space makes them easy to configure and attract guests who want to socially distance during the pandemic.
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Terra Nova recently transformed a 19th-century flour and cotton mill into the $25 million Whitehall Mill, which attracts diners to its 190-seat oyster farm and seafood restaurant, True Chesapeake Oyster Company. Its 200-seat food emporium, Whitehall Market, features eight tenants, including a cheese seller, Firefly Farms Market and a nationally renowned pastry vendor, Crust by Mack.
When Whitehall Mill’s events venue couldn’t open last year because of the pandemic, the developer could use that space to allocate an additional 75 seats for the restaurants, bringing in more business at a time when they were forced to operate in a limited capacity, Mr. Tufaro said. Guests cautious about indoor dining can sit in the mill’s substantial outdoor space, with 125 patio seats between the restaurant and market.
“I think it’s partly the attraction for the old that inspires people,” Mr. Tufaro said. “The other is, it turns out, they’re very adaptable to new uses.”
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 21, 2021, and has the title “Renovated Mills Offer a Perk in the Age of Social Distancing: Space.”)