For decades the old BB&T building served as an economic engine for Lumberton and Robeson County, a place where people came to secure loans for homes and businesses, first as Southern National Bank and then, following the merger in 1995, as BB&T.
Deals that were hatched in that building were critical in growing the city of Lumberton and the county.
But the 62,000-square-foot building at 500 N. Chestnut St. was in danger of becoming an economic anvil for downtown Lumberton, abandoned when BB&T moved into a smaller headquarters nearby, leaving behind a shell that requires costly renovations to get rid of asbestos and to return functionality to the building. In other words, an expensive and therefore unlikely investment for a private enterprise.
That makes good the news that the county recently reached a deal with the the family of Hector MacLean, whose father helped establish the Bank of Lumberton, which evolved into Southern National, and therefore is now part of BB&T’s ancestry. The county paid the MacLean family just a bit more than $600,000 for the land that the building sits upon, and the building, its problems and potential, came with it.
As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that BB&T, when exiting the building, donated its furniture to the county, which quickly found a home for the chairs, desks and such, including at the new Department of Social Services building.
The county now has a bit of a tiger by the tale, but the property’s 125 parking spaces are of immediate value, convenient for those doing business at the county courthouse that is just a few yards away. That alone is more than a fair exchange for the price of the property and the county having to surrender the tax revenue the property was producing.
The county, being broke like all governments, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the use of the building, which requires millions of dollars in renovations. But it seems clear to us that the old BB&T building will eventually be the new home of some county offices — and that should allay concerns that do exist that the county government is looking for an excuse to begin a westward march, out of the county seat and away from Robeson County’s bull’s-eye.