As former Kannapolis Post Office demolished, leaders discuss uses for site

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

KANNAPOLIS – Very little remains of the former post office at the corner of Vance Street and Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.
As of Monday, demolition crews had taken down most of the building, leaving only some of the structural steel and portions of three walls, including the façade.
Officials say the future of the 1.59-acre downtown parcel — part of the only sizeable amount of city-owned land in the downtown section — remains to be determined.
“There is no current plan for the post office site,” City Manager Mike Legg said via e-mail.
Legg said the decision to demolish the former post office had been made months ago, when the site was still being considered the prime location for a new city hall and police headquarters.
Then, in February, N.C. Research Campus developer David Murdock offered to donate five acres of land on the campus for the new municipal complex.
That leaves the former post office, a prime piece of real estate, with no immediate purpose, but much potential.
Legg called the site “a valuable tract of land with significant development potential,” including easy access from Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.
And, he said, there was no real benefit to preserving the brick-faced, cinder-block post office building.
The building, acquired by the city in the late 1990s when the post office moved to a new facility off South Ridge Avenue, had been used only for storage.
When Kannapolis purchased a new warehouse facility off South Main Street last year, the former post office became vacant.
“There would have to have been major dollars put into it to bring it back to any real use,” Legg said.
There had been some talk among residents of preserving the building, perhaps as a museum.
Norris Dearmon, of the Kannapolis History Associates, said the former post office was constructed in 1968, during a time of expansion at Cannon Mills.
Prior to its construction, the land had been occupied by mill houses, Dearmon said.
The weather vane from the old post office is on display at the Kannapolis History Associates museum.
Eric Dearmon, president of Downtown Kannapolis Inc., said the city-owned parcel is important to the future of downtown development.
Dearmon — who is the son of Norris Dearmon of Kannapolis History Associates — said that Downtown Kannapolis would support city leaders in whatever direction they chose to take the site.
He said Downtown Kannapolis expects the site will likely be used for some combination of retail, office or residential uses.
“It is a key piece of a big puzzle, and it is the only piece the city really has control over,” Eric Dearmon said.
Much of the property that makes up downtown Kannapolis is owned by Murdock’s Castle & Cooke N.C. and Atlantic American Properties.
The city of Kannapolis owns a total of about 7.9 acres along Vance Street and Oak Avenue.
Within walking distance of the city’s land is the vacant 13-acre plot between West D Street and West F Street that was the site of Cannon Mills Plant 4.
As far back as 2009, Murdock’s development staff mentioned the Plant 4 site as a potential location for single-family and multi-family housing.
“Because of the location, accessibility and visibility, this site is a prime candidate for a wide variety of uses,” Legg said.
While there are no specific projects in mind, only preliminary discussions, Legg said that could change in the near future.
“Clearly one option is to partner with Castle and Cooke on the old Plant 4 site they own which would make for a site well in excess of 20 acres,” Legg said. Downtown Kannapolis “would probably be in the mix assisting with any potential deals that present themselves.”

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.