Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

By Mark Wineka
Kannapolis Citizen”The city of Kannapolis has the foresight to recognize that it will need many different strategies to plan for the North Carolina Research Campus.
“The city and Cabarrus County should also be proactively planning for other community aspects, including parks, greenways, housing and government services.”ó SWOT Analysis, Market Street Services.If the proposed $76 million in self-financing bonds come to pass, they’re expected to pay for many of the infrastructure improvements that will give Kannapolis a more attractive, pedestrian-oriented downtown.
It’s something Kannapolis’ competitors ó the communities vying for the same biotech companies, scientists and researchers ó have been working on for several years.
Kannapolis and Cabarrus County are in the process of creating a tax increment financing district, the revenues from which will help pay for a long list of improvements.
The list includes almost $10 million for park and recreation projects, $6.4 million in streetscape improvements, $18.3 million in traffic improvement projects and $13.5 million toward utility infrastructure.
It also means Kannapolis residents can expect to see a lot of planning in the future ó plans dealing with transportation, land use, zoning, urban design, code enforcement, housing and neighborhood revitalization.
Not that the city of Kannapolis has shunned planning in the past, and the plans connected to the North Carolina Research Campus itself are impressive and encompassing.
But the recently completed SWOT Analysis ó a look at Kannapolis’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ó emphasizes that the city must create a vision.
It calls for a master plan that will use design guidelines and codes to shape urban development around the biotech campus for years to come.
The SWOT Analysis used Cary, Rockville, Md., and Rochester, Minn., as comparison communities that already have an established presence in biotechnology, technology and/or medicine.
Here is a summary, from the SWOT Analysis, of what each of those cities has done in terms of downtown development:
The Cary Town Council adopted a downtown master plan in 2001 that covered about 1.5 square miles.
In 2003, a new Land Development Ordinance took effect, regulating zoning, subdivisions, building appearance and design guidelines for the Town Center District.
The report says Cary is close to completing a streetscape plan for the Town Center. It will address things such as crosswalks, sidewalks, pavement widths, lighting, trees, public art, parking and signs.
Rockville, Md.
Rockville City Council also approved a master plan in 2001 for Rockville Town Center, covering 460 acres. The focus was on developing “Town Square” for retail, restaurant, entertainment, housing and office uses, according to the SWOT Analysis.
Town Square will be home for a new Rockville Regional Library, the Metropolitan Center for Visual Arts, a business incubator and three parking garages.
Rockville’s Town Square also will have a plaza for gatherings and community events.
Town Square’s development began under a public-private partnership in 2004 at an estimated cost of $300 million.
Of that cost, 70 percent represents private funds. The first buildings associated with the project will open late this year, and the overall buildout is supposed to include 175,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 1,900 parking spaces and 644 condominiums.
A five-story Arts and Innovations Center will be home to the Metropolitan Center for Visual Arts, a business incubator and retail stores.
The condominium units have prices ranging from $200,000 to $1.2 million, but the city is requiring that 15 percent (96 units) be reserved for moderate income people.
Rockville officials hope Town Square’s completion will lead to the development of the rest of Town Center.
“The goal of the plan is to make the Town Square area pedestrian-oriented and a focal point for civic, business, leisure and cultural activities,” the SWOT report says. “… Wider sidewalks, shorter blocks, the Town Square Plaza and outdoor dining will contribute to the pedestrian focus.”
Rochester, Minn.
Rochester has a busy downtown, but it wants to create “a focal gathering place,” the analysis says.
The city adopted a five-year plan for downtown development in 2004, and it identified four downtown development districts.
Rochester created a tax increment financing district in 2005 to spur downtown development and also established the Rochester Downtown Alliance, a special services district that operates much like the Municipal Services District in downtown Salisbury.
The city, Downtown Alliance and Project for Public Spaces created the “Vision for a New First Street Promenade” report, released in January of this year.
“The vision is for the First Street Promenade to be a gathering area that is pedestrian-oriented with street-level retail, better signage and attractive streetscape elements,” The SWOT Analysis says.
The city set a goal for construction to begin by the end of this year.
Downtown projects now in the works in Rochester include a five-story, 70-unit condominium project. The indoor Galleria Mall near the First Street Promenade is seeing $750,000 in renovations.
The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is building a 100,000- to 150,000-square-foot-center, to be ready by 2008.
“Other potential projects include artist studios and housing and a 63-unit apartment building geared toward young professionals,” the SWOT Analysis says.
The plans for the North Carolina Research Campus include elements that sound much like what’s happening in the comparison communities.
The campus will have university research buildings, the Core Laboratory, medical facilities, biotech companies, a community college training center and parking garages.
But it also calls for a new Kannapolis municipal building and public library, a 120-room hotel and wellness center, a boarding high school for girls, new retail areas, restaurants, a movie theater, apartments, townhouses and condominiums.
The total projected investment in infrastructure alone approaches $400 million.
The SWOT Analysis concludes:
“There are a number of different tools and approaches that can be used for downtown development. Kannapolis can use the experiences of the comparison communities and others to create a strategy that will build on the NCRC projects to create a thriving downtown core.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or