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Kannapolis approves brewery, analyzes downtown layout

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — If comments during Monday’s meeting are any indication, the city council may have found the catalyst for downtown revitalization.

During its first deep dive into specific plans for downtown revitalization, the Kannapolis City Council approved a lease for a craft brewery at 100 West Ave. Called Third Dimension Brewery, the business would sit in a building that anchors an area the Kannapolis City Council hopes to revitalize. It would also be a short walk from a planned minor league baseball stadium.

The brewery would be owned by Connecticut businessman Bill Collins, who also opened Firefly Hollow Brewing in his home state.

During a presentation to the city council, Collins said the brewery would initially produce beer mostly for in-house consumption rather than distribution. He pegged the opening date for fall 2017 and talked about the possibility of a roof deck at the brewery.

“The goal is to really kind of build a community space for people to come in, where people travel to, where we have live music, where we feature local food and bakeries as well as restaurants and try to get some food trucks in there as well,” he said. “The goal for Firefly Hollow up north and the goal for Third Dimension down here is never to be the last stop on a visit to the town. The goal is to pull someone to the town and then have them visit somewhere else.”

Collins stressed that he doesn’t want to serve hard liquor and his brewery won’t allow people to “drink to excess.”

Councilman Roger Haas speculated that the brewery would jump start downtown development in Kannapolis. Combined with other plans for downtown, Councilman Ryan Dayvault said the brewery could help stem the tide of Kannapolis residents shopping out of town.

Once it was time for a vote, the lease passed unanimously. It will require the brewery to pay a yearly rent of $81,036. The term of the lease is five years. Collins’ brewery will also have an option to purchase the building.

Monday’s approval, however, didn’t come without significant questions. Mayor Darrell Hinnant noted that Kannapolis would be approving a lease for its “first premier location” when he repeatedly grilled Collins about the brewery. Hinnant’s questions ranged from whether the brewery would eventually become a facility that primarily makes beer for distribution to whether the business would succeed at all.

If a majority of the beer brewed on West Avenue is distributed to stores and bars rather than served in-house, Hinnant said the facility would sharply contrast with the city council’s intent. It would essentially become a manufacturing business, he said.

He repeatedly asked blunt, direct questions, especially when it came to the potential success of the brewery.

“What happens if your beer falls flat on its face,” Hinnant asked. “Does success in Connecticut mean you’ll be successful in Kannnapolis?”

Addressing the various questions, Collins slightly altered a well-known movie quote.

“If you brew it, they will come,” Collins said. “Like, if you can make good beer, people will travel for it regardless of whether or not there are other supporting characteristics around the brewery.”

Initially, Collins said the brewery will hire three to four people with an average salary of $40,000. Later, the brewery will hire nine part-time employees, he said.

The brewery discussion came shortly after the Kannapolis City Council reviewed a streetscape plan and met an architect that city staff will recommend to oversee the baseball stadium. City Manager Mike Legg called it the first dive into specific discussions about the layout of downtown.

The preferred layout for West Avenue — the focus of the streetscape project — involves a narrowed road with roundabouts and adjacent parks. West Avenue would be one lane in each direction instead of two. During one presentation, a consultant told city council “downtown is going to look nothing like you know it today.”

Parking and traffic flow was the most talked about topic during the streetscaping discussion. Councilman Darrell Jackson specifically questioned what traffic might look like during a baseball game.

“You’ve got 1,200 to 1,4000 cars basically coming at the same time,” Jackson said. “I see that as a nightmare for some of specialty retail that may not target fans for baseball.”

During presentations, consultants hired by the city council repeatedly brought up parking decks as a possibility. Legg and Hinnant wouldn’t explicitly say the city will need to build a new parking deck downtown to accommodate additional traffic. However, it remains a possibility, Legg and Hinnant said.

Kannapolis plans to hire a consultant to analyze the parking situation in downtown. Legg said the city currently has enough parking in the downtown area for baseball stadium. However, a new streetscape would eliminate some parking spaces, Legg said.

Once Kannapolis wraps up its downtown revitalization, the city estimates it will have spent $100 million over the course of 10 to 20 years. That’s in contrast to the $375 million in private investment that Kannapolis projects.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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