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Out of the ashes: Company looks to invest $300 million in Kannapolis

KANNAPOLIS — As demolition in downtown Kannapolis began late last year, Mayor Darrell Hinnant likened the city to a mythological phoenix.

“(W)e will be like … that beautiful bird that rises from the ashes,” Hinnant said. “We’re going to be that beautiful community that rises from the places that used to be vibrant and actionable and alive.”

For the city, the rebirth is inching closer to reality. The City Council on Monday will hear a proposal from a firm looking to invest $300 million in downtown revitalization efforts.

Corporate Realty Inc., based in Birmingham, Alabama, is proposing four projects that would bring apartments, retail shops, restaurant, corporate offices and more downtown.

Corporate Realty has experience developing office, corporate, medical, retail and multifamily properties in the Southeast. The firm’s chief development officer, Brian Wolfe, said Kannapolis’ downtown revitalization fits well within the company’s porfolio.

“Our mode of development is really centered around urban anchor development,” Wolfe said.

Urban anchor development, he said, involves bringing mixed-use facilities near attractive focal points such as modern ball parks and public green spaces.

Corporate Realty’s first proposed project will be adjacent to both of these because it is planned for the block of properties and buildings on West Avenue.

That street is the future location of Kannapolis’ linear park.

For Project 1, Corporate Realty is proposing a five-story, 280-apartment development bordering the city’s new sports and entertainment venue. The space will have retail on the ground floor and a parking deck. A pedestrian walkway would connect two buildings.

Hinnant said the development should be completed within two years if it is approved Monday.

The projected date of completion is April 2020. Hinnant said Corporate Realty officials want the complex ready before the grand opening of the baseball stadium.

He said city officials are working to find buyers who are looking to develop now rather than later.

“We want people to buy something and invest and put product there and have the growth that comes with it,” he said. “(This apartment) is just Phase 1. There are four phases, and we’re really excited about all of them.”

Corporate Realty’s second project would include the block of buildings adjacent to and south of the historic Gem Theatre.

The city would retain ownership and preserve the Gem Theatre, while other buildings would be redeveloped as office space, retail and restaurants, parking and more.

There is the potential for new construction. 

Projects 3 and 4 are a senior residential community and a corporate headquarters, respectively.

Kannapolis acquired the development spaces in 2015 with an $8.75 million investment. The hope was to breathe life and recovery into a town that suffered a major economic hit with the loss of 4,340 textile jobs as Pillowtex, the successor to Cannon Mills, closed.

The City Council will consider the proposal at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 401 Laureate Way.

If a memorandum of understanding is accepted by the council members, city staff members will negotiate with the company on a development agreement. The agreement would spell out more details about the sale of property, design, financing, construction, ownership and operations of one or more of the proposed projects. The agreement is expected to be completed by this summer.

Corporate Realty’s investment could be the second major economic development project by a private investor in the Kannapolis Downtown Revitalization Project.

The first private investment is a similar multifamily residential and retail project, for a total investment of $60 million. It is being facilitated by the Florida-based Lansing Melbourne Group, and construction will begin in the next few months.

Hinnant says the influx of new apartments is targeted toward millennials and baby boomers. The spaces will range from studios to two bedrooms, with midrange prices making them suited for middle-income individuals and couples.

The couples will come from growth trickling outward from Charlotte, he said.

“Each of the communities closer to Charlotte have had their day already,” he said. “Salisbury will be next. It’s like concentric circles growing outward …. All of us regionally will grow from this.”

Hinnant said he doesn’t expect the apartments to affect schools, as the spaces are not meant to attract people with school-age children.

Wolfe said Corporate Realty is looking to attract residents who want amenities at their doorstep.

“We look at mixed-use development as a clock,” he said. “We’re working to expand it into a 16- to 18-hour day.”

This means providing an environment of work space and nighttime attractions and creating environments that people enjoy being a part, he said.

“These types of environments play well with us,” said Wolfe. “The city of Kannapolis has invested heavily in themselves. We want to deliver a successful environment for them.”

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