Kannapolis Council begins planning downtown redevelopment

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 5, 2015

KANNAPOLIS – A plan offering options for tenants of city-owned, downtown property could be ready this fall.

The Kannapolis City Council on Monday held a work session with the University of North Carolina’s School of Government Development Finance Initiative. During the meeting, Development Finance Initiative staff presented an outline of a comprehensive plan that would include a market and site analysis, public meetings, financial analysis and a demonstration project.

The City of Kannapolis began the process of purchasing 46 acres of downtown property from billionaire David H. Murdock in March. The city paid $5.55 million for the property, which has a tax value of approximately $23 million. Kannapolis hasn’t yet closed the deal.

The timeline presented by the agency contracted with Kannapolis would present the draft of a site plan in early fall. The site plan presentation would coincide with a public hearing process thats split into two parts. The first part is intended to gather input from the public about how downtown Kannapolis might look and the second hearing would be to present a second plan that incorporates public comments, said Development Finance Initiative Director Michael Lemanski.

The plan wouldn’t specifically state types of retail or types of businesses, Lemanski said, but rather generally state a good use for particular parts of downtown. For example, an entire block of downtown might be designated retail, he said.

Discussion during the work session, which lasted multiple hours, included focusing downtown on specific sectors of society, such as education, the arts or entertainment. The city council also considered whether it should focus offerings on the city’s younger demographic — millennials.

“In a lot of cases, for lack of a better way of putting it, the customer dictates what’s going to be there,” said Councilman Doug Wilson. “So, when we become ready to start putting people in these buildings, it may be who shows up that determines which way we go. And, that may be an entirely different thing than what we’re thinking right now.”

Councilman Ryan Dayvault mentioned ensuring that splash pads, playgrounds and open, public spaces would be needed in downtown. Others contemplated how to cater to the N.C. Research Campus, which has thousands of employees. A universally supported idea seemed to be including apartments and residential units in the future downtown Kannapolis landscape.

A baseball stadium was mentioned as a potential “game changer” or main attraction for downtown Kannapolis.

Representatives from the Development Finance Initiative showed a downtown site plan example from Shallotte, near Wilmington, where the town proposed to create a downtown on undeveloped land.

“Make no mistake about it, we’ve got a lot of vacant land too,” said City Manager Mike Legg. “Most of the core is going to stay intact, but there’s a lot of sort of blank canvas property too. So, it’s kind of a hybrid from (Shallotte’s) sort of complete blank canvas. Ours is a little mix of both, but make no mistake about it — we have to have a good site plan too.”

Legg said real estate development company Castle and Cooke has expressed interest in using the former Cabarrus Bank Building for meetings. Legg said discussion occurred between city staff and Development Finance Initiative about investing money into upfitting the facility. After discussions, Legg said it was important to complete the proposed analysis to determine the best use.

“Quite frankly, that’s a pretty valuable tract and pretty valuable space,” Legg said about the bank building. “The highest and best use, ultimately, might not be meeting space. That might be better suited elsewhere.”

The components of Development Finance Initiative’s timeline are scheduled to occur between June 2015 and March 2016. Legg said infrastructure improvements for downtown Kannapolis would be budgeted into the city’s fiscal year 2017 budget, which starts in July 2016 and ends in June 2017.

Parts of planning for a demonstration project are scheduled to start in early August, according to the proposed timeline. Lemanski said the demonstration project would show investors and developers that its possible to make the downtown properties a viable business opportunity.

The city council didn’t vote or take any action during its work session, but held a closed session after the presentation for consulting with an attorney, economic development.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.