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Editorial: What project will be ‘the next big thing’ in Salisbury?

What’s the next big thing in Salisbury? What new project will generate a large amount of community excitement along with new jobs, living spaces or activities for local residents?

It can’t be the Bell Tower Green Park. It has been the next big thing for at least a few years. After weather- and pandemic-delayed construction, it should be open by the fall, even if there are more interruptions.

Similarly, it can’t be the Empire Hotel. It’s been the next big thing for at least a decade, and the city hasn’t decided on a new proposal for the building. The project will be transformational for downtown if it comes to fruition, but dreams are still only that for now.

The next big thing will be new restaurants like Texas Roadhouse for some folks. The business plans to open a location off of Julian Road in the same shopping complex that contains Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Goods, Hobby Lobby and Burlington.  Maybe it’s another yet-to-be-announced big box store.

It could be another business like Chewy.com opening up shop in town and providing 1,000 or more jobs for people in and around Salisbury. The Rowan County Economic Development Commission has a few promising irons in the recruitment fire. One of them is a food processing company nicknamed Project Popcorn that would bring 1,200 jobs and invest $127.5 million. Last month, county commissioners approved tax incentives for the project.

The next big thing could be the redevelopment of a downtown building or a combination of a couple in close proximity. Between Barnhardt Jewelers and the new construction at the corner of South Lee and East Innes streets, there’s plenty of action on that side of downtown. The Bell Block Building, at the corner of Fisher and South Main streets, is a candidate for being the next big thing. Apartments are planned there for the second and third floor. There’s ample opportunity, too, on the other side of the intersection — the former Wells Fargo building that’s mostly empty now — and in the structures adjacent to the Bell Tower Green Park.

Maybe the next big thing is a few housing developments in the city limits or just outside. Several hundred new residents would certainly change things in the city of Salisbury.

Outside of the city limits, the most significant planned project is on the land annexed by Kannapolis on Old Beatty Ford Road. There, a mixed-use development is planned that could wind up being the size of a small town. Its moment, though, is a few years away because water and sewer must be extended first.

It will also be exciting when the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers throw out their first pitch later this year. The minor league baseball team’s stadium sits in Cabarrus County, but the first game will bring fans from Rowan to celebrate, too.

More than likely, the next big thing is something the public hasn’t heard about yet. It’s a project someone is still dreaming up, waiting for the right conditions to make it a reality.

Whatever comes next, there are plenty of reasons to dream big about what’s possible in Salisbury and Rowan County.

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