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Kannapolis takes steps to purchase downtown

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — In a marathon, 3-hour session Monday evening, Kannapolis City Council started taking steps toward the purchase of Downtown Kannapolis.

One of its first objectives was to sign a contract for pre-development services with Development Finance Initiative, part of the UNC School of Government, which council members voted unanimously to do.

Housed at UNC, the entity helps in development and revitalization support for municipalities across the state, according to City Manager Mike Legg.

“Our organization was created for projects just such as this,” said Michael Lemanski, its director. “It takes time to create a resilient, vibrant and diverse economic base. Our goal is to put ourselves out of business.”

DFI’s goal is for the city to go from 100 percent ownership of the downtown district to 15 percent ownership by the year 2024.

Its first steps in the process will be to conduct due diligence, prepare to stabilize properties, start its pre-development services and create asset management processes, Lemanski said.

The city will pay DFI $85,000 over the next several months, although that fee is divided into two separate fiscal years.

Lemanski said that the city is considered a “master developer” for the downtown area. “We are driving toward master development plans with short-term and long-term opportunities. We want to identify the right partners for different projects, with public investments to attract private investments.”

Although Councilman Ryan Dayvault said that many people had already expressed opening businesses downtown as a result of the city’s announcement last week, Lemanski urged that council get its long-term goals in place.

“The last thing we want is to put in businesses and then have to shut them down temporarily to do road work,” he said. Council has already acknowledged the need for infrastructure improvements downtown.

“In the interim, we need to respond to these folks who have inquiries,” Legg said. “Some may fit in easily and others may be more complex.”

Lemanski said that a plan would be developed over the next 12 to 18 months. “Short-term decisions should not prevent long-term goals,” he said.

Lemanski did say that council should see a spike in public-sector interest once those goals have been solidified.

“This is not an overnight job,” noted Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “This is a concerted investment that takes place over a long period of time.”

Lemanski agreed.

“We think that this is a realistic time frame,” he said. “This is closer to a 10-year project than a two-year project. It’s important that people have patience to see it done right.”

“We are excited about people’s exuberance,” Hinnant said. “Our job is to continue to sustain that enthusiasm over a longer period of time.”

“That’s the right approach,” Lemanski said.

“We’ve got to find a way to keep the excitement level right where it is,” Councilman Doug Wilson said. “That to me is very critical.”

“You don’t want to make big decisions about renovations and new tenants without making sure we think through it,” Legg said. He urged council to be thoughtful and deliberate. “We’ve got to create a buzz.”

Excitement over the project will grow as plans come to light, Lemanski assured the group.

After a short break, council returned to face a long business agenda, as its March 9 meeting had been canceled. That included a presentation about the ballpark planning study (see sidebar).

After another break, council unanimously passed a series of votes, which included:

• Approving three funding components for the Prosperity Ridge Apartments project: $96,484 from the Cabarrus/Iredell/Rowan HOME Consortium; $20,000 in existing CDBG funds; and $100,000 in 2016-17 HOME funds.

The project is a partnership between Prosperity Unlimited and the Wesley Community Development Corporation to create senior affordable housing at 104 N. Little Texas Road. The $7.2 million project will construct 60 units, 40 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units, with leasing expected to begin in Spring 2017.

• Approving guidelines for CDBG grant applications. The city will award two grants of $15,000 each, with the remaining $18,000 to be distributed for smaller grants of up to $5,000 each. Recommendations to council will be presented in May.

• Approving text amendments concerning minimum parking space requirements for elderly and age restricted multi-family projects, and height restrictions in the RV-Residential Village zoning district.

• Approving closing a right-of-way located in Azalea Estates on Azalea Avenue.

• Awarding a fiscal year installment package to Bank of North Carolina for financing of three city vehicles — a fire pumper truck, street patch truck and street sweeper — totaling $988,639 at 1.24 percent interest for 59 months.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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