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Planners work to turn downtown Kannapolis into an ‘experience’

By Andie Foley
andie.folie@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS – As downtown revitalization draws closer in Kannapolis, officials are working to translate dreams into reality.

The city council spoke at length on Monday about exciting changes to come and the “value engineering” that has made transformations possible.

The city’s mayor, Darrell Hinnant, said value engineering was a means of stretching resources so that all potential opportunities are met.

Richard Petersheim, an architect with LandDesign, presented on upcoming plans for downtown during Monday’s meeting.

“Even through the value engineering, we have maintained the integrity of what we were talking about from day one in this,” he said.

Petersheim said that the downtown facelift is meant to promote activity, to attract and to make the city’s center a destination.

This destination is focused around a four-block linear park, which Petersheim described as a “good balance of lush to hardscape.”

Architectural elements coming to downtown include a fountain archway in the middle of downtown. Visitors, Petersheim said, will be able to walk underneath these active threads of water.

“We wanted this to be a very iconic, unique thing to Kannapolis that happens right in the center of this experience,” he said.

Renovations will also include the addition of canopy structures, places that Petersheim said will allow for outdoor dining and performances.

“We’ve created a vocabulary of neat and whimsical furnishings throughout,” Petersheim said. These will be various seating areas, pops of color, light displays and more.

Light displays will be in the middle of two roundabouts, one on Laureate Way and one on B Street.

Petersheim said that city planners have considered safety, security and comfort together. There will be three public, unisex restrooms for use, charging stations for laptops and smart devices and cellphone reception boosters throughout.

These cell boosters represent a slight deviation from the original vision for downtown. The vision was for the linear park to be complete with Wi-Fi, something planners found impractical due to logistics rather than budgeting constraints.

Kannapolis director of Public Works, Wilmer Melton, said the boosters would work as a good compromise.

“It’s getting what you want but not necessarily having dedicated Wi-Fi downtown,” he said. “As we were going through we found this extremely challenging from all … providers on how we would do that and to what level we would provide it.”

For safety, downtown landscaping will be layered and include elements like heavy-duty planters and curbs to prevent accidental or intentional incidents of public safety.

“It’s unfortunate but we have to worry about cars veering off or people doing things intentionally in these public spaces,” said Petersheim.

In light of these considerations, Hinnant said that he was continually astounded at just how much thought and consideration designers and planners are putting into the revitalization project.

“I’ve been sitting in on the meetings,” he said. “You would not believe the kinds of details that are being managed in that project, … the amount of effort that foes in to present a package that you’re going to be proud of.

“We’re so excited to see this thing come to life and see things mobilize out there and I think we have done an exceptional job of continuing to deliver what we showed you, what we promised, what we got you excited about and the integrity of that through this budgeting process.”

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