The company considering whether to buy the White Mill building has received multiple inquiries from casino companies about the property — at least one as recently as Monday, said an official with The Alexander Company in Madison, Wisconsin.
Dave Vos, the company’s development project manager, said they are aware of the possibility of a casino coming to Danville if the state legalizes gambling in certain localities, including Danville. The Alexander Company renovates historic buildings throughout the country.
“That’s something that’s certainly on our radar,” Vos said Monday. “We’d welcome that as a use in the building.”
He would not reveal which casino companies or how many have expressed interest in the property located along the downtown waterfront. But he said there has been more than one inquiry.
City officials are tight-lipped on whether there have been discussions with companies about possible locations for casino resorts in Danville.
“Speculating on this … I don’t think it helps the process,” said City Manager Ken Larking.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of any communications among officials and company representatives regarding a possible location for a casino, Assistant City Attorney Alan Spencer said the city has 20 emails and two reports totaling nine pages discussing possible locations.
The actual documents, however, are exempt from FOIA requirements and were not provided to the Danville Register & Bee.
Larking would not provide details as to what is in the emails and reports. He said he has not spoken to officials from The Alexander Company about inquiries from casino companies.
“They haven’t talked to me,” Larking said.
Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said he could not comment on any discussions that may have taken place regarding a possible casino.
“I can’t comment on any speculative projects or unannounced projects,” Tucker said. “There are too many scenarios and unanswered questions for anybody to speculate at this point.”
Mayor Alonzo Jones said he was not part of the email communications, but there has been a lot of interest from companies about a possible casino in Danville.
“They’re looking at the White Mill,” Jones said, adding that the old Dan River Inc. site at Schoolfield has also been mentioned.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation March 22 that could bring casinos to Virginia. The bill directs the Joint Legislative and Review Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of casino gaming regulations and submit a report by Dec. 1.
It also establishes the framework for the Lottery Board to oversee gaming and would allow three cities with economic challenges — Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth — to hold referenda on whether to have a casino.
Referenda on casinos would also be allowed in Richmond and Norfolk, which have been identified as possible sites for the Pamunkey Indian tribe to establish a casino.
It also stipulates that a gaming license only be issued for projects with a minimum capital investment of $200 million in land, facilities, infrastructure, equipment and furnishings.
The legislation must be re-enacted by the General Assembly during its 2020 session, however, and, if it is, establish a series of deadlines.
The Alexander Company is conducting due diligence on the White Mill property, including a financial analysis and work to determine the feasibility of different types of businesses that could locate there.
In January, the Danville Industrial Development Authority, which is the city’s land-buying arm, approved an agreement with The Alexander Company for an option to buy the building for $3 million. The company has redeveloped at least 100 historic buildings and has performed new construction in several states.
Under the agreement, the company has until fall to determine whether to purchase the property and what it could be used for.
Danville officials had been marketing the property ever since the IDA bought it in 2017 from White Mill Development LLC, a subsidiary of Spartanburg, South Carolina-based Gibbs International.
The historic building was once part of the sprawling Dan River Inc. textile operation. The IDA purchased the property for $3 million, the same price The Alexander Company would pay if it agrees to buy it.
“We’re certainly exploring all options and uses for the building at this point,” Vos said.