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Viva la VIDA: Kannapolis breaks ground on downtown investment

KANNAPOLIS — As the Kannapolis City Council made plans in early 2016 for downtown revitalization, it identified Step 1 as the “Demonstration Project”: a 4-acre, mixed-used development of residential and retail spaces.

The project would “demonstrate successful public-private partnership,” said City Manager Mike Legg, showing that investment of public money could lead to big private returns.

On Tuesday, crowds gathered to break ground on the $60 million private investment, now called VIDA. VIDA will bring 286 apartments, a hotel, restaurants, a brewery and retail space to the city’s downtown.

For its part, Kannapolis will contribute a $12 million parking deck to serve the two-block development. That’s a 1:5 public-to-private ratio, said Legg, meaning every $1 in public funding will bring $5 in private return.

“One to three is really, really good, so we’re proud of that number,” he said.

Addressing the groundbreaking, Mayor Darrell Hinnant said VIDA is “all about … growth and life in our community.”

“It will be the kind of thing that we have been looking for and expecting as a community,” Hinnant said. “Its growth will bring hundreds of people to live in downtown, where they will work, play and worship.”

Legg said the federal government helped with the project by labeling Kannapolis an opportunity zone. Opportunity zones, he said, offer significant tax incentives to developers investing in “stressed” communities or areas with a high concentration of poverty.

“The fortunate thing about ours is we barely made that,” he said. “What that means is we met the standards there, but we’re also in a really growing, dynamic region.”

Legg said Kannapolis was one of the first municipalities in North Carolina to see a benefit from the designation.

“A lot are in places that just don’t have an economic engine,” he said. “They don’t have a dynamic Charlotte region. …  We’re just in a fortunate position to have both worlds.”

Peter Flotz, managing partner of VIDA’s Florida-based developer, Lansing Melbourne Group, agreed.

“We saw this as an opportunity zone … a long time before anybody decided to call things opportunity zones,” he said. “We’re real believers in this project. We want to do more here.”

His sentiments were echoed by Michael Kaufman, chief executive officer of Kaufman Lynn Construction, working the brick-and-mortar side of the project.

“As a suburb of Charlotte, (Kannapolis) was underutilized for a long time,” Kaufman said. “We’re really honored to have the opportunity to bring it to life.”

Flotz said that by investing in itself, Kannapolis is embarking on “something you’ll see nowhere else in this country.”

“We were attracted to this project primarily because of the courage these folks had when they decided to buy their entire downtown,” he said. “We’ve developed in 34 states, … and we have never, ever seen a city with the courage that these people have right now.”

But Hinnant said the project is about more than just courage: “High ideals and aspirations paired with deep convictions are the foundation of this project. VIDA is the next step forward for this community.”

Construction is expected to be completed by December 2020.

Anyone interested in learning more about the coming residences are encouraged to visit www.vidakannapolis.com.

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