Things are looking up

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Catawba College sophomore Mary Scott Norris waited an hour-and-a-half in her car so she could be the first vehicle to cross the West Innes Street replacement bridge, her celebration carried a lot of symbolism.
Lately, from a construction point of view, things are looking up. On paper, the new construction activity is supported by weekly building permit reports coming from the Rowan County planning office, which has been consistently issuing more permits for new apartments, duplexes, residences, remodelings and additions.
Casual drives through Salisbury, Kannapolis, smaller municipalities and rural country roads also bear witness to Rowan County’s slowly emerging from a long slumber on commercial and institutional development.
Consider the construction activity at Brenner Avenue and Jake Alexander Boulevard, which continues to expand the commercial area next to the Aldi grocery store.
St. John’s Lutheran Church is under a major expansion. Bounce City is open for business after a renovation of the old Earle’s Office Supply on North Church Street. Renovations started this past week on the former Bernhardt Hardware on North Main Street.
Land has been cleared along Brenner Avenue for new Civic Park Apartments. Residents in Spencer and Granite Quarry will soon be shopping at new Family Dollar stores. Granite Quarry also has a new medical office building nearing completion.
It’s encouraging to see longtime businesses such as D.J.’s restaurant confident enough to undergo major renovations and adaptive reuse plans being submitted for large structures such as the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on South Main Street and the former Holiday Inn on Jake Alexander.
Despite the controversy behind it, West End Plaza is another adaptive reuse, thanks to Rowan County government.
Think of the major multi-million-dollar projects under consideration by Rowan-Salisbury Schools — a new central office, Knox Middle School and consolidated elementary school for Cleveland and Woodleaf.
Salisbury will be getting a new hotel soon — a Holiday Inn Express.
Through much of the recent economic downturn, the Hefner VA Medical Center has pumped millions of dollars of renovation and new construction into its campus, cementing the medical center’s position as one of the county’s major employers.
There’s a lot to be excited about, but one thing tempering the enthusiasm is recognizing that many of the institutional projects — church expansions, schools, government administrative offices and federal tax-credit apartments — are not adding significantly to the property tax base. Still, they create construction jobs, provide employment security for many and have a ripple effect through the economy with increased sales tax collections.
So let’s take all this evidence for what it is: good news worth the wait.