Activity heating up at Research Campus
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó To make way for a potential big-name tenant, the new Kannapolis City Hall will not occupy a coveted spot directly across from the Core Lab on the N.C. Research Campus.
“Things are starting to heat up and there is more and more interest in the campus,” Kannapolis city manager Mike Legg said. “The last thing we want to do is have a prime site not available for private investment by a company.”
While apparently there is no specific tenant in mind for that location, both Legg and Research Campus developer Lynne Scott Safrit have predicted a flurry of “private activity” at the campus this spring.
Safrit recently dropped the name of agricultural giant Monsanto during a visit to Catawba College.
Monsanto Company, which produces Roundup, is a potential tenant in Kannapolis. The international biotech company also produces genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, making it a regular target for criticism.
Renderings of the Research Campus show “City Hall” included in a horseshoe of buildings that surrounds the Core Lab and features three-story structures for Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University.
But campus developer Castle & Cooke and city officials have decided that the location, which is within easy walking distance of the Core Lab, is too valuable for city offices.
“We have no need to go to the Core Lab every day,” Legg said.
Castle & Cooke is searching its vast real estate holdings for another downtown location for city hall, Legg said.
David H. Murdock, the billionaire mastermind of the Research Campus, owns Castle & Cooke and most of downtown Kannapolis.
While citizens currently think of the Research Campus as just the area in front of the Core Lab, over time everything inside Loop Road will be considered “on campus,” Legg said.
A new city hall should stand within that area, Legg and Safrit agreed.
Kannapolis, which incorporated in 1984, does not have a city hall. City employees are scattered throughout several rented spaces.
Castle & Cooke feels an obligation to help Kannapolis establish a new city hall because the Research Campus will bring so much growth to the area, Safrit said.
“The city needs to have a strong presence and identity for its citizens,” she said.
Safrit said Castle & Cooke has found a possible new location for the Cabarrus Health Alliance, another public entity that originally planned to locate on campus but gave up due to the high cost of buying space near the Core Lab.
The health alliance’s new location still would qualify for $15 million from the city’s biotech bond package, Safrit said.
“I would still consider it on campus,” she said.
The undisclosed location has some design issues they’re working to resolve, she said.
Officials from the state health department have visited the Research Campus and want a role there as well, she said. The state would occupy space inside the health alliance’s new building.
Public health is a crucial piece of the Research Campus puzzle, Safrit said.
“That’s the piece in my opinion that helps us start to change the city, to be able to disseminate and teach people what we have learned on campus,” she said.
Researchers and scientists can make breakthrough discoveries, but they are useless unless the campus finds a way to get the information to the public, she said.
“We haven’t really finished it until we are changing people’s lives,” Safrit said.
Contact Emily Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.