Kannapolis council hears what revitalized downtown could include
By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS — City Council members and members of the public got a glimpse of the future Monday evening as representatives from Development Finance Initiative presented a downtown site analysis.
That analysis includes a demonstration project that would add more than 267,000 square feet of retail, condominiums and apartments, and an educational facility to the downtown area.
The downtown has some 7 million square feet of undeveloped space that was taken up by the former mill. Key questions that the study seeks to answer, said Michelle Audette-Bauman of DFI, include:
- How does the city create a vibrant downtown environment?
- What are key locations for potential anchors?
- What is needed for an active pedestrian environment?
- How does the city recreate a built environment (the 7 million square feet of former mill space)?
- What is the ideal mix of use for the downtown area?
In developing the analysis, DFI used three benchmark cities for comparison to Kannapolis: Greenville, S.C., Bowling Green, Ky., and Durham.
Kannapolis has 45,245 people, compared with 62,252 in Greenville, 62,479 in Bowling Green and 251,893 in Durham. The fact that it is only 30 miles from Charlotte is a huge benefit, Audette-Bauman said.
Kannapolis’ downtown area has 240 acres and 1.5 million square feet of developed space, as opposed to 230 acres and 8 million square feet of developed space in Durham.
“There’s a hole that’s been left that’s waiting to be filled with revitalization and development,” Audette-Bauman said.
Audette-Bauman also noted that parking is a huge driver in any study, because of the amount of space that is taken up.
“We want to increase density,” Mayor Darrell Hinnant noted.
Audette-Bauman mentioned three possibilities for anchors: a baseball stadium, a performing arts center and a children’s museum.
“The research campus is already an anchor,” City Manager Mike Legg added.
Audette-Bauman has already presented the site analysis to city staff. Following the presentation to city council, she and the DFI staff will meet with community stakeholders to refine the analysis, she said.
Hinnant said that the construction would be similar to what the city has had in the past. Most of the residential buildings, Audette-Bauman said, would be six stories in height.
At present, she said, residential space only accounts for 2 percent of the downtown space. As residential space increases, retail space will decrease.
“Residential growth will occur in the Charlotte region,” Legg said. “It’s a matter of where it is captured.”
The site analysis includes the following recommendations:
- Four anchors to include a baseball stadium, performing arts center and children’s museum, for a total of 309,700 square feet or 12 percent of the available downtown space.
- A 12-story office building with 408,000 square feet or 16 percent of the downtown space. Such a building could serve as a company headquarters, Audette-Bauman said.
- Two hotels, totaling 110 rooms, close to the two large anchors, with 72,000 square feet, or 3 percent of the downtown space.
- Residential/retail space with 1.5 million square feet or 58 percent of the downtown space.
Audette-Bauman said of the mixed space, “Overall, it’s a significant amount of the area in the downtown. That’s appropriate, because one of the things that’s currently missing downtown is residential space.”
The plan calls for 1,500 units. There are at present 11. There’s also structured parking for 4,500 spaces, and 3 acres of open space.
Councilman Doug Wilson questioned the need for a performing arts center when the center at A.L. Brown High School had been recently renovated.
Audette-Bauman said that the current facility may not be able to accommodate large traveling shows.
Hinnant added, “The facility at the high school cannot have adult beverages.”
“That’s a huge difference,” Wilson said, as the audience chuckled.
Following a short break, Audette-Bauman addressed a demonstration project for the downtown. Its goals would be to build momentum for the downtown revitalization, generate interest and publicity, attract future investment, and demonstrate a successful public-private partnership.
The project would encompass buildings built in the block bounded by Main Street, West Avenue, Vance Avenue, and West B Street. Councilman Roger Haas asked whether existing buildings in the area would be refurbished, and Audette-Bauman indicated that they would. “West Avenue needs to be the first piece of the revitalization puzzle.”
“We can make that street look exactly the way we want the downtown to look,” Haas said.
“Where will these people come from?” Wilson asked.
Audette-Bauman said that there were partners on the research campus who need housing, as well as young people who want to walk to amenities. “There is a market demand already for 500 units.”
The demonstration project could include:
- Mixed-use retail and condos, 48 units, 65,400 square feet
- Educational facility, 58,100 square feet
- Mixed-use retail and apartments, 120 units for 144,000 square feet
- Structured parking
The total square footage for the project equals 267,500 square feet.
Its timeline includes a development plan to council in March, with a final recommendation in April. Following council approval, DFI would then engage a private partner to execute the project, Audette-Bauman said.
Wilson made the motion “to give DFI the go-ahead to get started on this, and we’ll see them next time around.”
The project, Councilman Tom Kincaid said, “is the perfect opportunity to show the public that we are serious about this, and we are moving forward, fast.”
Council voted unanimously on the motion.
Following the meeting, Annette Privette Keller, the city’s communications director, emphasized that the numbers and space use of the demonstration project will likely change as the project moves forward.
The next City Council meeting will be held at the new City Hall, 401 Laureate Way, immediately following the dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. Dec. 14.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.