Rutherfordton Moves to Acquire Key Properties for Municipal Campus & Affordable Housing

Posted on May 8, 2024


The Town of Rutherfordton has been working with Rutherford County Schools to acquire properties in the Town of Rutherfordton no longer needed by the School System. As the town continues the work of the redevelopment commission a vacant 5.8-acre piece of land along E. 2nd Street will provide a much-needed tract of land to create housing options in the future. The tract of vacant land fronts E. 2nd Street near the future 221 bypass and was segmented from the former R-S Middle Campus when NCDOT acquired the rights of way for the active bypass project. The Town has been working on land banking options in both the Fairview and New Hope Communities to remove blighted structures, land bank properties to create housing, and working with homeowners for urgent repair programs using grant funds from the Dogwood Health Trust. This 5.8-acre parcel will be the largest acquisition in this effort and will create opportunities for affordable housing in the future. Councilman Henry Giles who also serves on the Redevelopment Commission said, “This is a wonderful demonstration of how the school system works with the community to ensure each partner can be successful”. This property is being acquired using grant dollars specifically allocated for land banking purposes to increase the availability of affordable housing.


The Town is also excited to announce that it is moving forward on acquiring the former Rutherfordton Elementary School Campus known now as the Isothermal Community College Rutherford Learning Center (RLC). This 5.8-acre campus sits on the edge of Downtown Rutherfordton with frontage along S. Washington St, Maple Street, and N. Mitchell St.  The campus features 2 buildings, building 1 contains approx. 17,617 square feet and was built in 1957 while building 2 contains approx. 14,522 square feet on the main level, and 11,534 square feet on the second level, for a total of 26,056 square feet, and was built in 1967.



The Town has moved forward with the planning for a renovation of the current Town Hall to become a Police Station and looking into the potential for 2 building sites in the heart of Downtown for a new construction Town Hall.  During these initial planning phases, space constraints of the sites, parking for public uses, and the ability to program spaces requested by the public have raised concerns for overall project success. During a recent survey for this project, 73% of respondents noted the need for ample parking and the largest demand for space needs included large & small meeting rooms and event-style spaces. The Town and the School System have been talking about the opportunity to acquire this site for some time and over the past few months has increased with the Town’s desire to find a new space for both the Town Hall and the Police Department. This campus will allow for the renovation of the 2-story 1967 building to house Police, and Town Hall and provide opportunities for indoor recreation, a commercial kitchen, and a multitude of large community gathering spaces as well as ample parking that would not overburden downtown. Town Councilman Dr. Doug Sheets said, “This will permit the town to design and develop a new town hall and police station with enough space to allow for future growth while preserving structures downtown”.  Plans for Building 1 have not been established and will be part of the overall site master plan set to begin this summer.


The purchase of this campus is being acquired by funds allocated to the Town Hall and Police Station projects. These funds include a $4,000,000 allocation from the State in the 2023 State Budget as well as the Town’s Capital Facility Reserve Fund.


The Campus currently houses Isothermal Community College and the Rutherford Arts Council, the Town will work with Isothermal Community College as their space needs will expire upon the construction of the new allied health building to be constructed on the Main Campus off College Ave in Spindale. Rutherford County Schools as a part of the agreement will work with the Arts Council on future space needs as the Town begins to utilize the property. The Town is also working with the architectural firm of CPL Architecture to shift the focus towards the renovation of the school site for these purposes. This project affords the Town a new opportunity to grow Downtown with the use of the properties originally under review for alternative public purposes and economic development as well as the ability to react to the recent public survey data and focus groups that called for a mix of large and small gathering spaces with the opportunity to provide recreational spaces.


This facility gives the Town the ability to control costs, take advantage of a building renovation budget instead of new construction costs, and get a much higher return on square footage costs. A building of this scale would have been financially unachievable under a new construction budget. Rutherfordton looks to keep moving forward this fall with the Master planning of this campus and construction planning for this renovation project. Subsequently, the Town operations of the Police and Town Hall will not have to seek temporary locations during this project. “Overall this is a win-win for the Town and the School System and provides the Town of Rutherfordton with a wonderful opportunity to tackle housing options, as well as craft a new municipal operations center and surrounding uses to support the health of the community and downtown”, said Mayor Dancy. The property will also benefit from the upcoming investment in the community from the 2022 RAISE grant award that will improve Charlotte Rd from Maple St to Oakland Rd in Spindale with pedestrian improvements, intersection improvements, as well as a connection between the Purple Martin Greenway and Thermal Belt Rail Trail.


The purchase price for the property includes a price of $42,336 for the E. Second Street parcel and $393,000 for the RLC Campus. The purchase has been supported by the Rutherford County Commissioners and the Rutherford County School Board of Education at their meeting on May 7th and will now be subject to final Rutherfordton Town Council approval at their meeting on June 5, 2024, with an anticipated closing date before June 30, 2024.

Rutherfordton Learning Center

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