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Kannapolis Sells Off More Blocks As Downtown Vision Takes Shape

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David Boraks
Buildings at West Avenue and West A Street is one of the old blocks in downtown Kannapolis that the city has sold to investors.

The city of Kannapolis has sold off several more blocks of downtown that it bought five years ago as part of a long-term plan to jump-start redevelopment. Finding willing buyers is another sign that the city's $113-million bet is paying off, and the city manager says it's sooner than expected.

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City of Kannapolis
Map shows the progress of Kannapolis's downtown redevelopment.

Downtown Kannapolis used to be dominated by textile factories. After the last mill closed in 2003, the main business district withered. But in 2015, the city took matters into its own hands by buying 50 acres downtown for about $11 million. Most of the land was owned by billionaire investor David Murdock, who bought the old mill and most of downtown and also developed the nearby North Carolina Research Campus.

Now, after two more deals approved by the city council this week, private developers have bought up most of that land.

"So we are largely out of the real estate business now," said city manager Mike Legg.

Investing to Attract Investment

The city initially invested $113 million. That included $52 million to build a new minor league baseball stadium for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Millions of dollars more went to improve streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure. The idea was to attract private investment and Legg said that's happening, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

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David Boraks
VIDA is a $61 million mixed-use apartment and retail block nearing completion between South Main Street and West Avenue.

"I have been pleasantly surprised, maybe beyond that, maybe shocked and stunned at how rapidly it's come together. I don't think any of us dreamed that it would happen that way, especially in the past year with the COVID influence," Legg said.

Besides the stadium, which is now the centerpiece of downtown, Florida developer Lansing Melbourne Group is finishing construction on a $61 million mixed-use apartment block called VIDA. It will have 286 units and ground-floor shops. The developers also are renovating other downtown shops nearby. That's bringing back restaurants and other businesses, says Legg.

"We'll have 30 new merchants downtown, you know, business owners, within the first year that I thought it would take multiple years to get to that point.

Those new businesses include a brewery, Old Armor Beer Co., and Latin street food and barbecue restaurants. The city also is building a 400-space parking deck nearby.

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David Boraks
The city built the $52 million Kannapolis Cannon Ballers stadium and leases it to the team. It's still awaiting its first game, since COVID-19 has kept minor league baseball from playing.

More Storefronts Sold

On Monday night, the city council voted to sell five storefronts on Oak Avenue and 14 on South Main Street. Some existing businesses including Pizza Hut and the Gem Theatre will stay, while other new businesses are already lined up to move in.

A local company called Oak Avenue Partners LLC is buying the Oak Avenue block for $930,000. Investors Neil Goolsby and Lisa Hoover will be moving their own businesses to the block and recruiting others. Goolsby runs ISU Gilmore Insurance and Hoover runs Partner-Investing.com, which provides training to real estate investors.

Meanwhile, Lansing Melbourne is buying another 115,000 square feet of retail space on Main Street for $1.2 million.

Altogether, the city has sold or signed contracts to sell about $6 million in land and buildings," Legg said. He expects to sell another $5 million over the next few years.

"Our intention was not to make any sort of profit on the $11 million downtown purchase from selling these assets. The goal was to serve as a catalyst for future private investment which we believe will ultimately be as much as $400 million," Legg said.

Among the other projects in the works is a development of about 100 townhomes on nine acres off South Main Street. Legg says that's on the site of the old textile Plant 4.

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David Boraks
VIDA apartments are nearing completion near other old buildings in downtown Kannapolis.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.