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Kannapolis City Council candidates talk next steps in downtown redevelopment

KANNAPOLIS — Downtown redevelopment is already underway in Kannapolis, but what comes next is top of mind for candidates for City Council in this year’s election.

In the two-county city, there are seven candidates running for three spots on the council. And because Councilman Roger Haas isn’t seeking another term, at least one of the challengers will win a spot on council.

Councilmen Ryan Dayvault and Tom Kincaid are seeking another term on the council. Meanwhile, challenger Addul Ali, Howard Boyd, Phil Goodman, Chris Gordon and Darrell Jackson hope to win a spot on the council. For Jackson, a win would represent a return to the council, as he chose not to run for another term in 2017 to focus on his business.

Early voting starts Wednesday. Voters on the Rowan County side of Kannapolis can cast their ballots in Salisbury at the Board of Elections — 1935 Jake Alexander Boulevard W. Suite No. 10, next to Badcock Furniture. Those in registered in Cabarrus County can cast their ballots early in Concord at the Board of Elections — 369 Church St. N.

Now that streetscaping work on West Avenue is done and a downtown baseball stadium is under construction, candidates spoke to the Post about what comes next. The city of Kannapolis bought its downtown in 2015 in an effort to jumpstart an ambitious redevelopment project years after the closure and bankruptcy of Pillowtex.

Boyd could not be reached by deadline Friday.

Addul Ali, 40

For the second-straight year, Ali, a smaller business owner, is looking to join the council.

Ali distinguishes himself from the field by saying he’s the only candidate who’s worked directly with the administration of President Donald Trump and that he’s not a Kannapolis native.

Asked about what comes next in downtown redevelopment, Ali focused on the importance of getting feedback from local people and pulling more local businesses into the process.

“As we move forward with downtown, we need to make sure to get more citizens and local business input,” he said. “And we have to make sure we’re creating an environment where local business can flourish while we bring in outside businesses.”

Importantly, Ali said, the city needs to make sure it gives its police department adequate resources as it grows and manage growth in a way that keeps the city’s “historic feel and community feeling.”

Ryan Dayvault, 33

Dayvault, facility manager for the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute, is wrapping up the end of his second term on the Kannapolis City Council and says the biggest challenge for the city will be figuring out ways to manage many economic opportunities that will come the city’s way.

There are many more phases of downtown redevelopment that will need to occur, Dayvault said. But at the top of his list getting developers “on board” to renovate and redevelop historic buildings in downtown tops his list.

“We have some underway already, but the Main Street buildings and other older buildings need much repair to preserve them for future generations,” he said.

The Gem Theatre’s restoration is particularly important, he said. It brings more than 120,000 people per year to downtown.

“It holds a special place in the hearts of us from Kannapolis,” Dayvault said.

Phil Goodman, 67

Goodman, an investment advisor, is making his first bid for Kannapolis City Council. And he says the city needs to slow down in redeveloping downtown.

“We should slow down and take inventory of the existing and planned projects to ensure we are on pace, have the wherewithal to pay the costs …. And carefully plan future projects in a manner that will not destroy any additional historical property,” Goodman said.

Kannapolis’ population and economy is growing at an “incredible rate” and Goodman said it’s important to revisit short- and long-term goals to make sure they’re still on track. Goodman said the city must also ensure the goals are in the best interest of the whole city.

He said maintaining growth that’s well-planned and managed is the city’s biggest challenge.

Chris Gordon, 38

Gordon, who works in sports marketing and formerly was a race car driver, said he wants Kannapolis to be a place where his kids can grow up, be proud of and raise their own family, too.

Gordon said the next step in downtown redevelopment is marketing the city’s downtown and filling it with businesses. And while that happens, Gordon said, it’s important to “incorporate history and character and charm into new development.”

But to do that, Gordon said, the city needs to bring more people into the downtown area as part of what he called “a full-circle process.”

“If people aren’t there, businesses aren’t coming, and we’ve got to make sure we’re doing it all in moderation,” he said.

Darrell Jackson, 66

Jackson, the owner of Lee Clothing Warehouse, says he’s looking to return to the council, in part, because he’s got the experience the city needs, having already played a part in planning downtown work that’s going on now. He served a single term from 2013 to 2017.

Now, the most important step for downtown redevelopment is “to simply follow through with the projects that are already underway so that we can reap the benefits we’ve been promised.” He said city government has already “laid the groundwork” for new growth by investing in downtown, particularly with new infrastructure.

“By nurturing new residential and retail development downtown, we’ll capitalize on those investments and go into the new decade in a better position to see growth across Kannapolis,” Jackson said. “If we fail to follow through or if we overextend ourselves by taking on too many other projects, we risk losing out on opportunities that could benefit taxpayers citywide.”

Tom Kincaid, 67

Kincaid, owner and administrator of Caremoor Retirement Center, said he’s been on the Kannapolis City Council where there’s been “nothing going on.” And that when the council decided to buy downtown, “it took off better than we ever dreamed,” he said.

So what comes next? Being vigilant and smart about economic growth, he said.

“We need to look at where our businesses should go and not just build indiscriminately,” Kincaid said. “We only have a small area of actual downtown area. We’ve got to grow smart and be very vigilant about where we position our entertainment and residential areas.”

The city needs to keep in mind “who we are and where we came from,” he said.

Kincaid said he hopes to win another four years on the council so he can guide downtown redevelopment through to completion.

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