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Sharon Decker, state commerce secretary, visits Cornelius

CORNELIUS N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker on Friday promised the state’s help to transform 400 acres along both sides of Interstate 77 south of Cornelius Exit 28 into a commercial, retail and residential mecca.

After an hourlong tour of Cornelius with town officials on a 22-passenger bus, Decker said numerous companies continue to eye the state but “we are in need of product in North Carolina.”

Having seen the available Cornelius land firsthand, “I can speak much bolder for you than if I did not have that familiarity,” Decker said.

Mayor Lynette Rinker invited Decker to town. Rinker’s message on Friday: “Cornelius is open for business.”

While the tour covered all parts of town, officials focused Decker’s attention on the former site of the failed $515 million Augustalee mixed-used project off Westmoreland Road. The group walked part of the undeveloped property.

Local officials envision the 104-acre former Augustalee site, combined with 300 acres on both sides of the interstate, as a “Ballantyne North,” said Tim Holder, an EnergyUnited executive and chairman of the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corp., referring to the south Charlotte community.

Cornelius would need the state’s help with an I-77 interchange at Westmoreland Road (Exit 27), expanding Westmoreland to five lanes and completing a road network to link the acreage with Birkdale Village and Northcross Shopping Center off I-77 Exit 25 in Huntersville, officials said.

A “flyover” road over I-77 also is envisioned south of Westmoreland to hook into Bailey Road on the east side of Cornelius.

Decker said she was impressed by the level of planning for such major initiatives as developing the 400 acres. “What a marvelous example for communities all over North Carolina,” she said.

Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @ jmarusak
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