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Kannapolis townhomes on hold, but housing on schedule around golf course; real estate VP out

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó Despite a delay in townhome construction and a change of leadership, Castle & Cooke officials say development at the N.C. Research Campus is going well.
Castle & Cooke North Carolina, the real estate developer for the $1.5 billion biotechnology complex that includes both commercial and residential construction, has put the brakes on a housing development called South Village.
But commercial construction at the campus continues, including groundbreaking this year on three additional buildings, officials said.
Castle & Cooke had planned to start construction this fall on 160 townhomes at the south end of Cannon Village, where Cannon Mills Plant 4 once stood.
“We’ve gone back to the drawing board,” said Gregory Inggs, Castle & Cooke’s new vice president for residential marketing and sales.
Inggs replaced Anthony Sparrow, who served as vice president for residential development. Castle & Cooke President Lynne Scott Safrit said Sparrow left on his own a few months ago.
Right product for economy
Castle & Cooke still plans to build townhomes in the Village, Inggs and Safrit said.
“We are trying to make sure that we have the right product to offer in today’s economy,” Safrit said.
There were also several issues with the layout of the site, she said.
Originally, South Village was planned as a high-end housing development featuring five floor plans from 1,750 to 2,300 square feet, with prices ranging from $275,000 to $400,000.
Castle & Cooke has sought input from local real estate agents, people interested in moving to Kannapolis and other individuals to redesign the development, Inggs said.
“We’re listening to what folks have to say,” he said.
The development will feature a mix of townhomes and condominiums in different sizes, but no single-family homes. No price range has been determined, Inggs said.
Crews should break ground in early 2009, Safrit said.
With the delay in construction, Castle & Cooke will miss out on some potential homebuyers. The Research Campus officially opens Oct. 20, and the university and industry partners setting up shop in Kannapolis will begin hiring in earnest.
“We hope to hurry this along to offer these homes to folks moving in and also to local folks, too,” Inggs said.
By the end of 2008, Castle & Cooke should have new renderings and price points for South Village, he said. Construction will take place in phases, with build-out taking six to seven years.
Castle & Cooke has another townhome project in the works, Inggs said. He would not disclose the potential location but said it’s close to the Research Campus.
Developers at work
Castle & Cooke will have plenty of competition for homebuyers.
More than two dozen residential developments are under construction or ready to break ground in and around Kannapolis.
Even with nearly 6,000 new homes coming on the market in the next several years, there’s no guarantee that people working at the N.C. Research Campus will live in Kannapolis, city manager Mike Legg said.
“Proximity is important, but they could just as easily live in Concord or Charlotte,” Legg said. “One of our goals is to have as many newcomers reside here as we can.”
The housing market in Kannapolis has slowed in recent months, just like it has across the country, Legg said. The Charlotte region has fared better than many others, he said.
All new housing developments in Kannapolis are still on track, Legg said.
“Now, some of them are doing what Castle & Cooke is doing, adjusting their start times,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of any being scrapped.”
No cutting back
Despite the faltering economy, Research Campus founder David Murdock has not scaled back his investment in the project he calls his legacy, Safrit said.
“I would say that Mr. Murdock’s commitment is stronger than ever,” she said.
Murdock, who owns Dole Food Co. and Castle & Cooke, is expected to spend close to $1 billion of his personal fortune developing the campus.
Castle & Cooke, which has completed four Research Campus buildings and a parking deck, will start work on three more commercial buildings this year.
Construction has begun on a 45,000-square-foot biorepository at the corner of Chipola Road and Cannon Boulevard for Laboratory Corporation of America and the Duke Translational Medicine Institute.
“We are moving quickly to get that site ready for LabCorp in early ’09,” Safrit said.
Castle & Cooke will soon begin construction on the Medical Office Building for Cabarrus Family Medicine and Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc., a Wilmington-based firm known as PPD, Safrit said.
Developers are refining numbers with the contractor and awaiting some permits, she said. The building should open in early 2010.
Temporarily, PPD will move in across from Duke University’s office in the Village. Castle & Cooke has renovated space for PPD that was previously used by Carolina Interiors, Safrit said.
Castle & Cooke will break ground this year on a 60,000-square-foot facility for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Safrit said.
Developers are working through last-minute issues with the construction company to refine the cost of the project “and make sure we all agree on the scope of work for that building,” Safrit said. “We want the numbers tight on that before we are ready to pull the trigger.”
Construction will start in the next 60 days, she said.
Interest grows
As the Research Campus gears up, vacant space in and around the Village has attracted private companies that want close proximity to the Core Lab, Safrit said.
New Jersey-based Sensory Spectrum will move into the old K&W Cafeteria in the Oak Avenue Mall. The Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, based in New Mexico, will use space left empty last month when N.C. A&T University moved onto the campus.
“There is robust interest in that space downtown,” Safrit said.
Castle & Cooke continues to negotiate with the Cannon Memorial YMCA about building a YMCA Express in the Village, she said.
“We go back and forth,” she said.
The Y is considering space that will become vacant on West Avenue, as well as existing retail space in the Village, Safrit said.
They need at least 10,000 square feet, she said.
Homes going up
Construction has started on homes at the Club at Irish Creek, formerly the Kannapolis Country Club, another Castle & Cooke project.
The Irish Creek sales office opened this week on Irish Creek Drive off West A Street, the new entrance to the golf community that could include nearly 600 luxury homes in 10 phases.
Castle & Cooke has named seven custom builders. Each will construct a home on site for potential buyers to see.
No homes have been sold yet, Inggs said.
Except during a special sale in October, lots won’t be sold to the general public. Starting in November, anyone interested in buying a home in Irish Creek must purchase it from a builder.
Lots are priced between $100,000 and $200,000, and homes will run in the $800,000 range, Inggs said.
Irish Creek will host a Discovery Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 18 for the public.
The golf course will hold a grand opening in mid-October featuring pro golfer and course designer Davis Love III.

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