Kris Krider has heard people describe the city of Kannapolis as the "red-headed stepchild" between Salisbury and Concord.
But Krider, 49, the city's new planning director, thinks otherwise.
" 'Red-headed,' ... yes," said Krider. " 'Red-headed' is cool; it's interesting; it has a lot of character.
" 'Stepchild,' no. Kannapolis is not going to be whatever you want, or do it however you want."
According to a news release, Krider's portfolio includes the N.C. 73 land use and economic development plan, I-77 Exit 30 vision plan implementation, National Register Historic District designation and the CATS Station Area Transit Small Area Plan.
For the past eight years, Krider worked as the planning director and economic development manager for the town of Davidson.
Recently, not much planning was going on. One month in 2009, only one building permit was submitted, Krider said.
"We have great infrastructure.... We built a lot in a short amount of time, and I think it's important for it to fill in," said Krider about Davidson. "There are empty subdivisions.... Fill those up before you start cutting more trees down."
Krider took on the position of economic development manager because Davidson had slashed the planning budget.
"It was a struggle for me," said Krider, who felt as though his job had become more of a sales job. "It was looking further out in the future and further away from what I do best. I really wanted to get back into being a planning director."
So when the opportunity came up to become planning director for Kannapolis, it was perfect timing.
"It was a convergence of all the best," said Krider. "I could keep my family in the area and continue to live and enjoy this part of North Carolina but also get into that which is Kannapolis, which (has) so much potential and so much there on the ground already in terms of history."
Krider hopes to bring investment into Kannapolis and grow business within the city. He believes bringing events downtown and encouraging people to walk or jog through the city will re-establish Kannapolis' identity.
"If we sort of market ourselves right, we can bring in high-quality developers and we can build our self-image," said Krider, who believes the city is on the verge of some development. "We really want to see Kannapolis grow in terms of jobs and quality."
One of Krider's challenges is on the western side of Kannapolis, around Renaissance Square. The northeast corner of the intersection of N.C. 73 and Poplar Tent Road, near the Mecklenburg County line, is in Kannapolis' jurisdiction; the other three corners are parts of (going clockwise from Kannapolis) Concord, Huntersville and Davidson.
Since there's a lot of activity in that area, the task is about managing that growth in a smart and sustainable way, avoiding "leapfrog"-type subdivisions - neighborhoods that are disconnected from one another - Krider said.
"My career as a landscape architect, an urban designer and planner is someone that looks at the public realm, the streets and town square and the spaces between and thinks how that is from a pedestrian standpoint and how it is from a car standpoint," he said.
Focus on biotech hub
Another major aspect of his new position is his involvement in the future of the North Carolina Research Campus, billionaire David Murdock's developing biotechnology research center.
"With global warming and the fragility of our global economy, it's about survival," said Krider, who wants Kannapolis to focus on health and fitness. "What are we doing to survive? We need to get healthier. It's incredible what science can bring to bear. The whole focus on the life sciences is the next revolution."
Krider believes the research campus is going to continue to expand, but not on the trajectory as originally projected.
"The expectations were too high, partly because of the economy but partly because they sort of misread the growth projection of that industry," said Krider.
Krider believes he can be a facilitator and bring the right parties together to talk about how to manage the land and growth of the campus.
The planning department is a place where those conversations can happen, he said.
As for the future of Kannapolis, Krider hopes to improve the heart and soul of the city: its residential core.
"There are landlords that don't take care of their properties. There's infrastructure that's crumbling, and it's not sexy.... It's not headline-grabbing," said Krider.
When working on a subdivision design, a city hall or other building, Krider's goal is that someday it will be a historic district or a landmark.
"It feels like you are representing the people and the environment," said Krider. "When you become a public servant, you become really invested in the community."
The overall goal is to clean up the infrastructure, bring in new investment, fill in existing developments in the area and instill a greater sense of pride in the people of Kannapolis.
"You've got smart people out there who know the neighborhood, who know their businesses, who may be emotional at times, but there's always a hand of truth in almost everything people say," said Krider.
Client is the community
Krider received his undergraduate degree in architecture from UNC Charlotte in 1985 and earned his master's degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.
After he finished his course work in 1992, Krider traveled around the world focusing on small cities and developed an eye toward inner-city preservation.
"I feel that's where some of the highest quality of life that you can experience is in small towns and small cities," said Krider..
"When your client is the community, you look at it differently," said Krider. Krider lives in Davidson with his wife, Michele, and daughters Isabella, 15, and Olivia, 9. Michele works in corporate real estate with Bank of America. Isabella and Olivia attend the Community School of Davidson.