Kannapolis city councilmen take closer look at N.C. Research Campus
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó City Council members got an up-close look at the laboratories and facilities of the N.C. Research Campus on Monday.
Led by Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke, the 90-minute tour gave Mayor Bob Misenheimer, three council members and city staff a chance to see the inner workings of the David Murdock Core Laboratory Building and that which will house the University of North Carolina Nutrition Research Institute.
Council members and the mayor had toured the complex during earlier stages of construction. Misenheimer several times expressed his delight and amazement at the speed at which the facilities have been built and the high-tech equipment that’s already being installed.
“I am just amazed and delighted at how quickly this has come about,” Misenheimer said.
“This is awesome,” Councilman Gene McCombs said as he toured the Core Lab. “And it’s hard to believe that it’s here in Kannapolis, when you think back just a few years.”
The UNC building, which will also be home to researchers from three other North Carolina universities, is nearly complete.
“We hope to deliver that UNC baby on or about the 22nd or 23rd,” Safrit said.
“The N.C. State building is about 30 days behind it,” she said.
According to Safrit, researchers are expected to have begun working in these facilities by September and October, respectively.
Nearby, plots for a 160,000-square-foot medical office building and retail facilities await the start of construction as the network of streets and walkways begins to take shape, fanning out from the Core Lab.
On the fourth floor of that building, temporary paper signs on doors mark their future uses. Many fixtures are already in place, including special climate-controlled storage lockers and some lab workstations.
Checklists on lab doors await construction crews’ final inspections. Elsewhere in the building, crates and boxes of gear await final completion of facilities so that technicians can begin setup and calibration.
Safrit said that current plans call for those laboratories to begin coming online this fall, concurrent with experiments beginning in earnest at the neighboring university buildings.
The labs are designed with comfort and customization in mind. Instead of the fixed black-topped lab tables familiar from science classrooms, Safrit pointed out the mobile carts and movable shelves in lab spaces, standing alongside numerous power sources and network connections for information sharing.
Just as important as the lab facilities, Safrit said, are the amenities for researchers who will be literally working day and night on the campus.
“A man from one of the leading food companies in the world was here a while back,” Safrit told city officials and guests.
“He’s made a lot of important scientific discoveries, and he said that a lot of the ‘ah-ha!’ moments came not in front of fancy equipment but at a coffee shop, talking with other researchers and sharing information.”
Fastening on that culture of cooperation, Safrit said that Murdock and campus planners have taken care to put in numerous areas outside of labs for relaxation and thought.
In the UNC building next door, which will also be home to researchers from other North Carolina universities, most floors contain kitchens and lounge areas where researchers can relax.
Showers and changing rooms will also be available for those working long hours, Safrit said.
“Or, there may be those who want to ride their bikes to work and change when they arrive,” Safrit added.
From the balcony of the UNC building, Misenheimer and council members looked out at the plot that will eventually be the open central lawn of the Research Campus.
“David Murdock has said this area will be ‘the living room of the campus,'” said Phyllis Beaver, marketing director for the N.C. Research Campus.
With trees and other landscaping already being put into place, the site is becoming more like the illustrations city leaders have been seeing for several years.
And those leaders were proud of what they saw.
“It’s incredible,” Mayor Pro Tem Randy Cauthen said. “We’re very fortunate that this is here in Kannapolis.”
City Manager Mike Legg said he was pleased to see the hard work of so many people come to fruition.
“It’s truly satisfying to see pieces of the campus starting to come together. … But this is the tip of the iceberg, really,” Legg said.