Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

By Mike Legg
Special to the Citizen
The North Carolina Research Campus presents many opportunities and challenges for Kannapolis, and as a city we have been working hard to maximize the investment Castle & Cooke is making in our community.
One of the most important ways we can support the campus is by working to update our infrastructure ó from parks to roads to water and sewer lines.
In order to make these critical updates ó most of which are off-campus ó Kannapolis is planning to issue self-financing bonds. These bonds work by creating a special financing district, often called a “TIF district,” where new investment creates incremental property tax revenues.
The property tax revenues from the new investment are then pledged to pay off the bonds. For those that live in the TIF district, the property tax rate remains the same as the rest of the city. It is the increased value ó mostly from the new development and not an increased property tax rate ó that creates new, incremental property tax revenues.
The results from a recently completed strengths and weaknesses study have been clear ó in order for the campus to meet the projected 37,450 jobs, the city must undergo significant improvements to help us compete with other biotech hubs like Cary.
Ideally, Kannapolis will partner with Cabarrus County to issue $76 million in bonds to pay for some of these projects. County participation is critical. In the last few weeks, our City Council and the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce Board have issued resolutions calling on full county support.
One of our goals related to the N.C. Research Campus since its announcement is to find ways to make sure that other development occurs in Kannapolis because of the campus. By using the bonds to fund off-site improvements, we’ll be able to maximize the benefits of this incredible project by making significant investment throughout the city.
When looking at major tech hubs around the United States, one core component of these communities stands out ó significant investment and demand for public park space. During the initial planning stages for the N.C. Research Campus, Castle & Cooke placed a strong emphasis on developing a campus where people could live, work and play. Parks serve as a crucial piece of this puzzle.
As part of the total infrastructure plan, the N.C. Research Campus includes a number of new parks as well as improvements to several existing city parks that are not on the campus. A significant portion of the northern exterior of the campus adjacent to Loop Road will become a new park, and money will be invested to link the campus to the current Village Park in downtown Kannapolis via pedestrian tunnels under Loop Road.
Connecting the campus to parks off-site will be an extensive greenway system. The N.C. State greenhouse facility will be off the campus, and plans call for linking this site with a portion of an existing greenway and also expanding the greenway to Kannapolis Lake.
Other parks in Kannapolis will also see new investment from the self-financing bonds. Veteran’s Park next to the campus on Main Street will see improvement, as will 8th Street Park where ball fields will be added.
In total, the city has proposed constructing 6 miles of new greenways, 10 miles of new bike lanes, 13 miles of new sidewalks, approximately 2,000 new trees, and 28 acres of new parks in the downtown area.
Major intersections and most downtown streets will also be improved in preparation of the N.C. Research Campus. Roads will be widened, traffic lights will be replaced and many utility lines will be buried.
For Kannapolis, using self-financing bonds to help aide the development of the Research Campus is a win-win. The city will be able to upgrade its existing infrastructure ó a move that will benefit all within the city. Kannapolis will also be able to participate as a partner in the Campus. Lastly, using a portion of the property tax Castle & Cooke will pay to help make improvements throughout the city will help Kannapolis maximize the impact of the project.
Mike Legg is city manager for Kannapolis.