Regions Southern Virginia

Old Tultex mill finds new life as office space

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

Blake Shumate, operations manager of American Global Logistics, considers the Clock Tower building in Martinsville to be an ideal office location. “We needed a larger space with flexibility to grow,” he says, noting that the Atlanta-based company’s operations office in Martinsville handles international freight. “They have a tremendous amount of space, which will make things easier as we go down the road.”

The Clock Tower is part of the five-building, mixed-use complex known as Commonwealth Centre, former home of a Tultex textile factory. The Clock Tower building was originally built in 1896 as the Rucker Whitten Chewing Tobacco Co. In the 1920s, the building was the home of Martinsville Cotton, and in 1957 it became a Tultex mill.
George Lester, CEO of The Lester Group, bought the property at a bankruptcy sale in 2002. “He had a vision of keeping the old building,” says Jim Farrell, the company’s director of real estate. “He placed a glass clock tower on the front and put in modern glass elevators. He wanted to give it a modern touch.”

The five-building complex has 1 million square feet of space that will be divided between office and industrial use. Of the Clock Tower building’s 173,000 square feet of space, 24,000 are dedicated to Small Office Concepts, a project Lester started in 2010. “The idea was to get more customers and start developing the space and also take care of smaller user’s needs,” says Farrell.

The Clock Tower building’s larger tenants include Faneuil, a call center for Dominion Power; YoungWilliams, a call center that handles child support inquiries for the Commonwealth of Virginia; and Cobham, a defense contractor. “We have the entire third floor available for larger users,” Farrell says. “We also have deals that we are working on with local firms that would represent about 1,700 square feet each.”

Even though the economy has been sluggish, Farrell is optimistic about Martinsville’s future as well as the future of Commonwealth Centre. “The city is the best-kept secret in America,” he says. “We are making good progress in the center of town. I am excited about the Centre and the prospects of continually filling that space.”

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