Kannapolis hosts Salisbury City Council to tour the city’s streetscape

Published 12:07 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

KANNAPOLIS — Salisbury’s Forward 2040 plan is an all encompassing project that is delicately being carried out so that the city can ensure its future as a thriving community. A small chapter of the plan is maintaining and improving upon Salisbury’s streetscape. This encompasses sidewalks, streets, alleys and open spaces that the general public frequents in and near the downtown area. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has given the city a grant that could be valued at around $10 million to assist in funding the streetscape proposals.

Currently in the “planning stages,” Salisbury sought out Kannapolis, a city that did their own streetscape improvements, to gain understanding on what they did and what advice they can give to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

“It’s an opportunity for us to see how that a similar city within our jurisdiction, how they implemented and what they’ve learned,” Mayor Karen Alexander said.

Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant and City Manager Mike Legg gave a tour of West Avenue, the central street that makes up their downtown. Up and down West Avenue, there’s fountains, public restrooms, shops and restaurants that make it both a park and a downtown. Starting at Atrium Health Ballpark, home of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Hinnant and Legg gave clarity on what it’s like having a minor league stadium within city limits like making sure residents don’t run out on the field and how much rent is for nearby units.

The Swanee Theater is now fully operational and opens the door for concerts and other kinds of events like weddings. While small businesses are important to downtown Kannapolis, Hinnant points out that creating an “entertainment district” persuades people to visit, stay longer and spend money on all of the varied options available.

Hinnant says that adding the roundabout was a challenge for Kannapolis since it was originally a four lane street. “It was quite an undertaking because they didn’t have any vision of what that was going to be. So, we had to share that vision with them, show them over and over,” Hinnant said.

Kannapolis had owned all of the buildings in the downtown themselves, but they were eager to sell them to developers so that could manage them and the small businesses that reside there. Kannapolis is only responsible for the sidewalks and streets, which they still own.

Many residential properties are being constructed in Kannapolis and more are on the way. Kannapolis hired Development Finance Initiative at the University of North Carolina School of Government to map out what kind of streetscape they wanted. They have designated “zones” with contrasting levels like a quiet one for people to eat outside or a loud one that supplies live music.

“We’ve segmented it to be able to be something almost for everybody. We’ve done the same thing about housing, a little something, different levels of housing, a little different expense, different amenities,” Hinnant said.

When Salisbury first reached out to Kannapolis to ask them to tour their downtown, they couldn’t have been happier to accept.

“Salisbury’s our neighbors and our friends…We share with them all the kinds of things that went on as to what we faced as we were going along. I’ve had people far away as Georgia, we’ve had people from Louisiana. We learn from others, so why shouldn’t we share that with other people, too,” Hinnant said.

Alexander was keen on the water features she saw and how the cosmetic and practical elements compete to see what is actually best for the downtown. Salisbury will be partnering with ESP Associates on phase two of the project after McAdams worked on phase one. After seeing what Kannapolis has done, Salisbury is looking forward to what it can accomplish.

“We want it to be a lot more accessible for everybody, all age groups and all abilities. We also want to accommodate more outside dining, being able to come out on to the sidewalk. We want to improve lighting…A broad range of things. We will also make some infrastructure changes,” Alexander said.

*This story has been revised for accuracy.