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Master plan: $14 million savings by keeping former mall

Following the presentation of a long-awaited master plan for the county’s facilities, it’s likely that the county will keep the former Salisbury Mall, according to three commissioners who stayed after Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

The county’s master plan, presented Monday by ADW Architects, included three main options — two with the former mall and one without. Within each of the options were several other potential changes that the county could make. It was the end to a months-long debate about whether it would cost more to develop the former Salisbury Mall — renamed West End Plaza — or sell the building and fill the county’s space needs in other ways.

The presentation by ADW Architects resounding showed filling the former Salisbury Mall with county departments would be a less expensive option. It would cost about $14 million more to address the county’s space needs without the mall than with the building purchased in December 2013, according to the master plan. Estimates didn’t include any revenue that could be generated by selling the mall or other county facilities. Even with a sale, a significant cost difference would separate a future with and without the mall, architects said.

After the presentation, architects recommended county commissioners keep the former Salisbury Mall, saying it was in good condition for a 30-year-old building and would be the most cost effective option.

Discussion during the meeting among commissioners was sparse. Any comments by commissioners after the presentation were limited to clarifying points of the presentation. Chairman Greg Edds was the first to speak up during the meeting, pointing out that the county would gain a conference center by keeping the mall. Subtracting the cost of building a community center from the price estimates that included keeping West End Plaza, Edds said, would be a more adequate comparison of the cost advantage.

Edds wouldn’t specifically say after the meeting that keeping the West End Plaza would be the best route for county government, but said he liked the cost savings that would come with keeping the building.

“What I’m most excited about are the other opportunities that we may have for the community that would not be possible,” Edds said. “To provide for the community a conference center that can be used by Rowan-Cabarrus Community college, the public school system, businesses and whoever it may be, is an amazing thought.”

If the county keeps the West End Plaza, architects recommended moving eight departments to the building, including Social Services, Health, Board of Elections, Code Enforcement, Environmental Health, Planning and Development, Veterans services and the library’s Local History and Genealogy Departments.

Both options for keeping the West End Plaza included flex space for retail stores. Both options also gave Social Services the entirety of one of the anchor store locations at the former mall. Confirming what commissioners have said for months but never approved, the sheriff’s office would be moved to the former Social Services and Health Department Building, using the entirety of the building.

Edds said commissioners would need to take time to read through the 135-page document before deciding how to proceed.

Commissioner Mike Caskey echoed Edds’ comments when asked about the value of purchasing the mall. Caskey said the cost savings shown in the presentation on Monday were reason enough to keep the West End Plaza.

Commissioner Craig Pierce said he and other commissioners knew even before the West End Plaza purchase that it was a good value in providing office space for county departments.

“We would have done a disservice had we not at least explored the option,” Pierce said. “That’s what we did from the start. We didn’t set out with the intention that there was no other option than to buy the plaza. We took our time, we investigated it and we set ourselves to be able to bid on it at a good price.”

Without the mall, architects suggested constructing a new building for Rowan County Sheriff’s Office on top of a space that currently contains a parking lot and the magistrate’s office. The building alone would be about $26 million, rivaling the cost of the entire relocation effort with the West End Plaza. A new building for the sheriff’s office would be the most expansive single relocation cost without the West End Plaza.

The second largest cost — more than $8 million — if the county sold the West End Plaza would come with the cost of a new Health Department Building at 1236 West Innes Street. Without the West End Plaza, Social Services would fill the entirety of a building it currently uses a portion of on East Innes Street.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners announced they had reached an agreement with an on-demand charter aircraft company that’s currently based in Statesville.

Edds said the company — Strategic Moves Aircraft Management — would move it’s headquarters to the Rowan County Airport as a result of the agreement, which includes a $50,000 allowance for construction of facilities for the company.

Strategic moves would pay Rowan County close to $7,000 per month to lease space at the airport, according to Edds. The move would bring 15 to 17 jobs to Rowan, he said.

Strategic Moves has locations in both Carolinas, Virginia, Colorado, British Columbia and Finland.

• Commissioners approved a 1.5-acre rezoning on the 3000 block of Old Concord Road

The request was from Mike and Lynn Hartness. The pair are the owners of Kustom Karts and requested the land be rezoned from rural residential to commercial, business industrial to help expand their business.

• Commissioners appointed 13 people to a re-branding task force.

The 13 people included: Kelly Alexander, State Alexander, Dustin Wilson, Barbara Hall, Whitney Wallace, Amie Baudoin, Krista Osterweil, John Ketner, Justin Dionne, Nicole Holmes-Matangira, Thad Howell, Alan Lambert and Jeanie Moore.

Patterson Farms Co-owner Michelle Patterson was previously appointed chairman of the task force.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

Here is the full master plan presentation given to County Commissioners on Monday: bit.ly/RowanMasterPlan

 

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