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‘It’s a big day’: N.C. Railroad buys remainder of megasite land

January 06 2016

News & Record

GREENSBORO — The Greensboro-Randolph Megasite could soon move from concept to reality thanks to the North Carolina Railroad Co., which has promised to buy 875 acres and virtually wrap up the land-buying phase of the project.

The railroad said Tuesday that it will spend about $13 million to buy the land within the 1,450-acre site in Randolph County to help complete what local and regional leaders believe is the Triad’s best shot at landing a car manufacturer or other advanced industry.

Until Tuesday, Randolph County was the only owner of land designated for the megasite. Most of the remaining property was controlled by an organization called the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation, which had options to purchase that could expire.

The North Carolina Railroad was chartered by the General Assembly in 1849 to build a line from Charlotte to Goldsboro. It now runs for 317 miles between Charlotte and Morehead City and carries freight and passengers through Greensboro.

If the railroad closes on its purchases, the properties will be added to the 421 acres that Randolph County bought in 2015 for a total of 1,296 acres.

Its unclear how many property owners are selling to the railroad, but there were 67 individual owners for the entire site.

“It’s a big victory day for us,” said Jim Melvin, president of the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation, which is an arm of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation.

Melvin said the megasite foundation will be working to buy a few small pieces of land but, “we’ve got a site.”

He said that Greensboro, Randolph County, the railroad and the state have managed to pull off perhaps the most difficult part of any complex effort: cooperation.

They began work three years ago to turn an undeveloped corner of Randolph County into what research shows is one of the state’s most attractive sites for an auto plant.

Melvin called Randolph County officials “visionary” when they were the first public group to pledge money last year to buy land for the project.

The foundation has hired a consultant that will now do environmental and engineering studies for an access road to the site.

“The city of Greensboro and Randolph County have just cooperated beautifully,” Melvin said. “We’ve never had a harsh word and we’ve never had a disagreement and nobody has ever said, ‘What are we going to get out of this?’ It’s really a genuine partnership and I think that’s what attracted the railroad to us.”

Greensboro will ultimately consider extending water and sewer lines to the site and has committed $2.3 million for an engineering study.

Economic developers estimate construction costs would be upward of $100 million, and that’s not including incentives a company might demand from the state.

But they say the payoff — a $1 billion plant and thousands of jobs — could prove priceless for the region’s battered economy.

“It’s gonna happen,” Melvin said.

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