Saturday, April 9, 2016

Milestone Club launches GoFundMe campaign to repair west side venue

Milestone Campaign from Matt K. Clum on Vimeo.

Watch the video to learn more about the Milestone’s history and its renovation plans (warning: adult language).

Earlier this week The Milestone Club - the 46 year old west side venue that’s hosted legendary acts such as Nirvana, R.E.M., and Bad Brains – launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to update and renovate the club. The campaign has raised almost $22,000 in three days from over 400 donors.

The repairs to the club are vital for the venue to continued operations.

Carlos Espin, who owns Area 15 in NoDa, plans to buy the venue and its surrounding property and partner with current owner Jonathan Hughes, who will stay on to manage the club. Espin wants to turn the currently uninhabitable upstairs of the Milestone into a small business incubator on the west side.

“He was interested in helping facilitate development on the west side,” says Hughes. “We wanted to make sure the west side develops into something that is good for us. Instead of it being apartments and dog bars. He came to me with the idea. What would it take?”

What it would take is two new roofs, new plumbing and electrical, and restoring the upstairs which has been shut off since the `70s.

Why now? Bill Flowers who opened the Milestone in 1969 and still owns the property is willing to sell it to Espin, but an investor is only interested if the building is useable.

“A bank won’t loan on the property we’re in as is,” says Hughes. “A bank would want us to tear the building down.”

While the Milestone has undergone a renaissance since 2004 when Neal Harper and Philip Shive took over managing it, the actual building has never really been updated. The building, which was once a store owned by Jamie Hoover’s (of the band the Spongetones) family and the family’s neighboring house, was built in 1902. It still has the original roof.

“The building is in severe disrepair. It’s not going to fall in on our heads any time soon,” Hughes assures. “There’s been a second floor that’s been boarded up since the 70s and it’s got a lot of water damage. We went up there to check it out and it was a lot worse than we thought it was.”

The building leaks where the bar area and separate stage area (the former store and house) were joined in the `70s.

Espin and Hughes met with numerous contractors. One said he wouldn’t even touch the place, but others offered estimates. Based on those, Espin and Hughes came up with the GoFundMe goal of $150,000.

Given the recent loss of other live music venues the Chop Shop and Tremont Music Hall and the impending sale of the Double Door Inn site to Central Piedmont Community College, donors are interested in preserving what is actually the city’s oldest club (the Double Door was founded in 1973).

“At the end of everything, the big picture if we do all this construction, make the repairs, and own the place next door - the Last Picture Show (which Flowers also owns), there will be two businesses plus the business incubator. We’ll own the field back behind the club where we could at some point do something out there,” explains Hughes.

“The idea is instead of us going with the flow with what’s happening in our neighborhood and the community, we are facilitating the change. The city will follow us instead of us being steamrolled,” says Hughes, adding that their plans are one reason Flowers, who had not previously entertained the idea of selling the property, is behind the project.

“He likes us being here because he cares about the Milestone. The last thing he wants to see is condos and apartments. This is his baby. Forty-six years ago he opened a place where weirdos could hang out and he was one of them,” Hughes adds. “The idea of a big stack of apartments would be heartbreaking to him.”