Bids sought for design of Danville’s White Mill pedestrian bridge

City officials have taken another step toward bringing new life to the roughly 100-year-old former Dan River Inc. bridge.

A request for proposals for design of turning the 966-foot structure into a planned pedestrian bridge has been posted, with a deadline for bids set for Feb. 10.

The city is seeking conceptual designs of what the bridge could be and how it would tie into the redevelopment of the White Mill building and the planned Riverfront Park.

“We’re looking for designers to show us what’s possible with that bridge,” said Danville Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia.

After bids are in and a contractor is selected, officials hope the design process will be finished by October or November of next year, Sgrinia said.

“We want people to have some public input into the process,” he said.

There has been talk for years among city officials of converting the structure into a pedestrian bridge.

Completed in 1921, the bridge connected Dan River Inc.’s White Mill, which was built around the same time and housed the mill’s weaving operations, to yarn mills on the north banks of the river — also known as the Long Mill property.

Environmental work on the structure — including lead and asbestos removal — took place from November 2021 to last summer, Sgrinia said.

Waco Inc., whose corporate headquarters are in Richmond, performed the rehabilitation of the bridge.

The roughly $1 million project’s cost was covered by a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund and $587,140 from New Market Tax Credit money through Danville, Virginia CDE, Inc.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes a “brownfield” as a property in which the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

The environmental work was the first phase of renovating the pedestrian bridge. The refurbished structure will tie in with the other two projects in the area along Memorial Drive next to the King Memorial Bridge.

“It does serve as a connection between the two sides of the river and the trail,” Sgrinia said. “It does tie in with the White Mill, which is a major redevelopment. Also, the bridge is in the middle of things and could be seen from all four directions to create something unique and visible from many different directions.”

As for the physical conversion of the bridge, it is not known when that would be complete. That process will require a separate request for proposals.

“We’re not far enough into the process to set an end date,” Sgrinia said.

The White Mill will be redeveloped into a multi-use project that will initially feature 147,000 square feet of commercial space and 150 apartments. Another 56 units are planned in a future phase.

The 150 apartments will be built on the top three floors of western two-thirds of the building and will include one-, two,- and three-bedroom units. Some will be loft style. The future apartments will be built on the top floors of the eastern one-third of the building.

The first floor and eastern one-third of the second floor will be reserved for commercial space, with the lower level of the building being converted into 219 interior parking spaces for tenants.

Construction of a riverfront park on four acres between the White Mill building and the King Memorial Bridge will also take place.

In addition, an easement over about 1.12 acres of land along the Dan River will allow for the extension of the Riverwalk Trail.

There are also plans to use the canal on the south side of the building as a whitewater feature.

Article by John Crane | Register & Bee