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As Work Begins On Arts Center, Developers Eye Downtown Cornelius

022621 Greenway Gartens rendering.jpg
Northwood Ravin
An architect's rendering of the proposed Greenway Gartens, with a new Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and beer garden, apartments and townhomes.
051321 CorneliusArtsCenter2.jpg
Cain Center for the Arts
A rendering of the planned Cain Center for the Arts on Catawba Avenue in Cornelius.

A $25 million regional arts center breaks ground Friday in downtown Cornelius. Town officials say the project has sparked other residential and commercial development nearby, including a brewery and apartments.

Planning for the Cain Center for the Arts began in 2015. As word about the project has spread, it has made people think differently about downtown Cornelius. The arts center, and the availability of vacant land and industrial buildings, has brought a flurry of activity, said Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron.

"That has probably been one of the biggest catalyst projects I have seen in my career, that has spurred development in and around where it's going to be built," Herron said Thursday.

051321 Caroline Cornelius.jpg
Proffitt Dixon Partners
A proposed development called Caroline would include commercial buildings, a restaurant and "active adult" apartments along the Antiquity Greenway near downtown Cornelius.

Nearby projects going through zoning approval right now include:

  • Greenway Gartens - Charlotte's Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and development partner Northwood Ravin want to build a second brewery and beer garden along with 398 apartments, 50 townhomes and shops on a 25-acre former screw factory site on Zion Avenue, across the railroad tracks from downtown. A traffic analysis is underway and Herron expects the project to come back to the Planning Board in June or July, with a Town Board vote in August.
  • Caroline - Proffitt Dixon Partners of Charlotte is proposing apartments and shops on 16 acres bordering the Antiquity Greenway. A community meeting and a public hearing have already been held. The project would include an entrance on South Street near Davidson Elementary School. Herron said the developer recently began a traffic study. The project could come back to the planning board in July or August, with a Town Board vote in September.
  • The Venue - MPV Properties of Charlotte recently submitted a zoning application for a five-story commercial and residential building on a vacant two-acre lot on South Main Street, about a block south of Catawba Avenue. That parcel has been on the market for at least a decade. It would have 75 apartments and 6,000 square feet of shops, offices and a restaurant. Herron thinks it could come up for approval at the Town Board in September.
051321 The Venue site plan.jpg
MPV Properties
A site plan shows The Venue, a proposed five-story building on South Main Street Cornelius, with parking in the rear.

And those are just the announced projects, Herron said. Planners are working with developers on three more major projects that aren't yet public.

"Several are mixed-use and one may include some kind of hospitality, some kind of boutique hotel, but certainly an emphasis on high-end restaurant," Herron said.

That would be a major transformation for this former mill town main street that once had little more than textile mills, a pawn shop and a gas station.

At the arts center site next to police headquarters, workers have demolished existing buildings and begun site work. The center will have a 400-seat theater, an art gallery, a dance studio and classrooms.

Executive Director Justin Dionne says the groundbreaking will kick off 16 months of "hot-and-heavy construction" leading to a December 2022 grand opening. He said the center expects to reach an audience within a half-hour's drive.

"The Cain Center for the Arts is going to be an arts and community center that will serve the entire Lake Norman region," he said.

Dionne said they're also continuing to raise money toward their $25 million goal. As of this week, the campaign has raised $19.5 million, he said.

051321 Screw Factory OMB site.JPG
David Boraks
The proposed Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Greenway Gartens project is on the site of the old Curtis Screw factory, off Zion Avenue in Cornelius.

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