Experience How History Repeats Itself at Signal Mill

By Robin Derryberry

For more than 70 years, Signal Knitting Mills employed more than 1,700 people in the Chattanooga area. Built in 1916 in the heart of Chattanooga’s growing industrial center, the NorthShore, the large two-story brick building was used to manufacture clothing for worldwide shipment. With the decline of the textile industry, knitting processes ceased in 1986. The remaining building is an important piece of Chattanooga history and a beautiful example of the quality workmanship of industrial mill construction from the early 20th century. 

In 2005, Signal Mill secured a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Over the next few years, the building held little promise for the area until Food Works located there in 2006. Later, part of the building became an antique mall, but the majority of the building never quite met the potential it had in earlier life, until The Woodbery Group from Atlanta purchased the building with a vision of redeveloping the site into a vibrant retail destination.

The goal? Maintain the authenticity of the building’s history while preparing it for the future. The group also wanted to attract a diverse mix of retail and office businesses that would partner well within the 42,000-square-foot building. Throughout the process, the character of the property received special attention. From maintaining the original wooden floors and beams to providing unique spaces that encourage customer exploration of the building, Signal Mill and its best features began to come back to life. 

While Signal Mill is still home to Food Works, it also offers a diverse array of retail, office and dining experiences executed by The Woodbery Group. The group has been instrumental in the redevelopment of various notable projects in Atlanta including: Puritan Mill, White Provision, Peachtree Square, Ponce de Leon Place, Decatur Court and Henry Ford Avenue. Each of these projects provided adaptive reuse of historic properties converted for new uses.

David Woodbery of The Woodbery Group noted the desire to ‘get it right’ with Signal Mill.

“When we first looked at the project, we saw this beautiful old building with attractive architectural features that challenged us not only to keep them, but to showcase them. From the existing water tower in the back of the property to the antique iron pieces that are still located in front of the building, we knew that Signal Mill’s future needed to be as bright as her past.” 

With completion of construction, Woodbery began meeting with potential tenants for the building, including Edley’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville. 

“They are famous for their great barbeque and sides. They wanted be in Chattanooga but could not find the right property, but when they saw Signal Mill and the opportunity to utilize a great porch throughout the year, it was a perfect fit,” Woodbery says.

Woodbery also brought in a well-known coffee shop to open a second location. Monica Smith and Matt Lewis didn’t hesitate to bring Mean Mug to Signal Mill. On any given morning, commuters, students and shoppers all share space as they enjoy a delicious meal and a steaming cup of Mean Mug coffee. In addition, the main floor soon saw the addition of Frios Gourmet Pops, Pigtails and Crewcuts and the recent additions of Genevieve Bond, I Go Tokyo and the bridal store -Olia Z. As a nice start to the year, a logistics company will locate on the top floor of Signal Mill.

“We know that office, retail and dining always complement each other," Woodbery says. "The ‘secret sauce’ of success on the NorthShore is to have all of these offerings available within walking distance. Signal Mill provides this opportunity and we think the founders of Signal Mill 102 years ago would be pleased with the result.”