Murdock to donate land on Research Campus for Kannapolis city hall

  • Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 1:23 a.m.

Council votes to accept 5 acres; says ‘no conditions’ on deal

By Hugh Fisher

KANNAPOLIS — In a surprise announcement, Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg brought news Monday that billionaire David Murdock, owner of the North Carolina Research Campus, has offered to donate land to the city, outright, as a site for a new city hall and police headquarters.

“There are no conditions on this transfer,” Legg said.

After discussion, the Kannapolis City Council voted to accept the donation, on a 6-to-0 vote. Councilman Randy Cauthen was absent.

The unexpected news was announced at Monday’s regular council meeting.

The council voted last year to begin the process of constructing a city hall on the site of the former city post office, at 275 Vance Street off Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.

Legg said the discussion with Murdock came about within the last 10 days, as the Dole Foods owner was in Kannapolis on business.

“He learned we were moving forward with city hall ... (and) said, ‘I’d really like you on the campus,’” Legg said.

What followed, Legg told the Post, was a series of discussions to make sure there were no limitations on the deal.

There are none, he said, other than a request to maintain the NCRC’s architectural standards.

In discussion, council members said they had already planned to do so in constructing a city hall in any downtown location.

According to Legg’s briefing on the transfer, the research campus site will allow a larger building — up to 100,000 square feet — to be constructed.

Kannapolis will be able take advantage of existing water lines and utility infrastructure, and there will also be no need for extensive grading or stormwater detention.

The cost of construction will be close to $206 per square foot, Legg said, instead of about $235 per square foot on the old post office site.

In all, the city will save approximately $2 million, Legg said.

Mayor Bob Misenheimer said the deal was “like buying a car and getting to keep your other car.”

The concept of having a municipal building on the campus is not new.

Architectural concept drawings made in the initial planning phase showed a potential site for a city building near the center of the 350-acre campus.

The site in question, on the western side of Laureate Way, will face the semicircle in which university research buildings and the Core Laboratory facility already sit.

The site was originally slated for retail development, Legg said.

Those original artists’ renderings showed a cineplex and a mixed retail and office village surrounding the research buildings.

Legg said the new city building could act as an anchor for future retail development, as the economy improves.

According to city staff, construction on the new site would take about six months — the same as envisioned for a smaller complex on the former post office site, Legg said.

“There’s a little less challenges on this site because it’s flat, and the infrastructure is in place,” Legg said.

But the building itself, being larger, could accommodate future growth and development, he said.

Councilman Darrell Hinnant said he was “very thankful to Mr. Murdock for offering this parcel to the citizens and the community.”

Councilman Ryan Dayvault said he hopes that having a city hall and police department in the vicinity will “help the city embrace the campus.”

Dayvault said he knows of many residents who still don’t feel a connection to the downtown research facility.

“I hope that it gives the city the feeling that the city is owner of a vibrant piece of property,” Dayvault said.

“I think this is the kind of public private partnership that we need to be involved in,” Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs said.

After the meeting, Legg said that within 15 years, “the majority of the buildings on campus will be publicly owned.”

The Cabarrus Health Alliance, the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College facility and others are examples of public investment in downtown Kannapolis, he said.

“I think it makes sense that the city, in the right circumstances, make a public investment,” Legg said.

Councilman Tom Kincaid said he had thoroughly considered the potential deal.

“With the opportunity to have the city hall and police station downtown,” spurring economic growth, “... I think Mr. Murdock’s offer is more than generous,” Kincaid said.

Especially, he said, considering the savings to taxpayers.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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