We recently sat down with Mike Legg, city manager for the City of Kannapolis, who talked about successes in 2015 and major projects on the horizon this year.
Q: It was a busy year for the City of Kannapolis. What were the highlights of 2015?
A: There were many successes, but nothing compares to the construction and dedication of our new city hall and police headquarters and the purchase of property for the revitalization of downtown. We’re also proud that we attracted the Gordon Food Service distribution center and that the Haas Formula One Team now calls Kannapolis home.
Q: Construction of a new municipal building has been on the city’s priority list since 1990. What’s special about the new building?
A: It’s unique because it houses administrative offices and police headquarters, but it also features the Laureate Center – 5,500 square feet of meeting space for business and community use. The meeting space is a needed component for our Downtown Revitalization Plan and is already in great demand.
Q: What are the next steps for the downtown revitalization project?
A: The revitalization of downtown Kannapolis will be all-consuming and our top priority this year. We’re working with the Development Finance Initiative (DFI), which is affiliated with UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill. Through a site analysis, they’ve identified two locations for major anchor projects to generate more traffic and bring people downtown. One project might be a baseball stadium and the other could be a performing arts center. Ideas for smaller anchor projects include a children’s museum and farmers market. We’re working with DFI now on a blueprint to determine what’s feasible.
Q: What makes downtown Kannapolis unique?
A: Most downtown land is scarce with private-sector ownership, so you have to convince a lot of different people to make projects happen. The city doesn’t have that problem because we have major amounts of land that we control, making it easier for developers to become interested and get projects underway quickly.
Q: Is there a residential component of the revitalization plan?
A: The anchor projects are important, but a strong residential presence is just as important because it generates the same kind of critical mass of people coming into downtown. We’re currently working on defining a demonstration project that would encompass a few acres of land right in the heart of downtown. It would consist of tearing down a piece of a building that’s underutilized and replacing it with a multi-story residential and office complex that could potentially house Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Advanced Technology Center.
Q: How will the city involve citizens in the revitalization of downtown?
A: We’re reaching out to the community and downtown businesses and merchants through public hearings and other avenues. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback already and it’s been overwhelmingly positive. I think our community is excited to control its destiny and have the opportunity to craft a vision.
Q: How will the new downtown Kannapolis be different from its heyday back in the ‘50s and ‘60s?
A: There’s a segment of the community that sees this project as an opportunity to bring downtown back to what it was, but that will never be the case because we live in different times. Economics demand that it’s different. Back then, there was no Concord Mills, Internet or Amazon to battle against, so now we have to have a different vision and view of downtown that includes more niche and entertainment-based retail.
Q: What are some of the city’s competitive advantages in the recruitment of industry and business?
A: The biggest advantages we have are location and land. In addition to the downtown area, we also have large amounts of undeveloped land on the city’s west side that we’ve made major infrastructure investments in. The Kannapolis Parkway is a huge economic corridor – a major thoroughfare that connects I-85 and downtown – and we’re starting to see more residential development. We’re excited to be in the next wave of economic growth.