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Kannapolis council adopts downtown master plan

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — City Council on Monday evening unanimously approved the Downtown Master Development Plan.

Over the next 10 years, the estimated private investment is set at $374 million, with estimated public development tagged at $113 million. For every $1 of public money invested, the city expects $3.30 of private development.

Mayor Darrell Hinnant noted total investment in the next decade could reach a half-billion dollars, with an initial investment of only $25 million — the tax value of the downtown properties the city purchased from David Murdock.

“Businesses would go crazy to have that kind of return on investment,” Hinnant said.

“It’s a lot of money,” Councilman Doug Wilson said later of the undertaking, “and it’s not to be taken lightly.”

The plan also includes infrastructure improvements — $21 million for structured public parking, and $18 million for utility replacement and streetscaping.

Michelle Audette-Bauman of Development Finance Initiative walked council through the details of the project, all of which has been discussed at previous meetings. The plan has involved more than two dozen stakeholders and participants in the downtown area.

Councilman Ryan Dayvault said he considered the plan a “living, breathing document,” not a stagnant piece that would sit on a shelf. “Just because we adopt this doesn’t mean we can’t shift things around.”

The anchors of this enormous project include a sports and entertainment venue, and a performing arts center. Councilman Roger Haas said he considered a hotel to be an anchor, and Audette-Bauman said it could indeed function in that capacity.

“Hotel investments are closely tied to other anchors,” she said. “Having a hotel downtown assumes you have demand.”

She said that planning for the demonstration project and infrastructure construction may be completed simultaneously, gaining some efficiencies.

The vote gives city staff its marching orders, said City Manager Mike Legg. “We’re moving forward on a number of things by adopting this resolution.”

After a 10-minute break, Audette-Bauman turned to the city’s commercial leasing guiding principles for its downtown area: create vibrant downtown with mix of businesses and customers; put in retail tenants who will be successful; sign long-term tenants who are in line with master plan’s vision; set expectations and tone for future development; target public investments to generate spillover benefits for the downtown.

Council members learned when different “zones” of development would be ready for leasing in the near-term and long-term — for sale to private partners by the end of this year to the end of 2020.

Audette-Bauman detailed the zones’ redevelopment cost estimates — the minimum costs to improve each space. Individual contractors can give more finely tuned estimates than what were done in 2014 in a building assessment for currently vacant spaces, she said. She also discussed hypothetical leasing scenarios in which the city could recoup its investment in shell space improvements.

With assistance from City Attorney Wally Safrit, council unanimously adopted a leasing and property disposition strategy and a leasing policy for Downtown Kannapolis.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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