A concrete idea for Kannapolis

When businesses outgrow their offices, they usually go in search of another building.

But Keith Wayne, president of Wayne Brothers Inc., had bigger ideas when his specialty concrete construction and site development company needed space.

Now, he's developing not only a new headquarters building but also a 75-acre corporate park that will include a Crosland-developed retail center.

Wayne Brothers plans to break ground Thursday in Kannapolis on the first Class A office building – a three-story, 60,000-square-foot concrete-and-glass structure that will house its employees and showcase its craftsmanship.

“Keith grew up in a community three or four miles from the site,” said Alan Goodman, Wayne Brothers' development manager. “That's where he wanted the headquarters to be. He didn't aspire to move in town or to the interstate.”

Concrescere Corporate Park is to be developed at Davidson Road and N.C. 3, which connects downtown Kannapolis with downtown Mooresville.

Proximity to two other municipalities – Concord and Davidson – and a combined trade-area population of 20,000 people makes the location a development hot spot with long-range Next Big Thing potential.

When John Cox, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Partnership, peers into his crystal ball, he sees Cobb County, Ga.'s “Platinum Triangle” of offices clustered around Interstates 75 an 285 in Atlanta.

“I could see some of that style of development happening, obviously, around (Interstate 85) Exit 49, on the Wayne Brothers tract and around the North Carolina Research Campus,” he said.

“It's amazing to me that in this economy people are thinking of this style of development for Cabarrus County,” Cox said.

The first three research campus buildings in downtown Kannapolis – including the Core Lab – are to open by fall on the 350-acre site of the old Cannon Mills complex.

At Concrescere, Wayne Brothers is setting aside 15 acres for a medical park with tracts available for sale or for buildings to be constructed to the specifications of health care professionals.

Corporate office parcels also will be offered for sale in the project, estimated at $122 million including the shopping center and medical park.

On its 19 acres, Crosland plans 150,000 square feet of buildings with a supermarket, a pharmacy, a coffee shop, several restaurants and at least 20,000 square feet of small shops.

“We think N.C. 3 will become a main artery between the Mooresville/Interstate 77 area and Kannapolis,” said Mike Wiggins, senior vice president of retail at Crosland.

“Also,” he said, “we see it as a chance to get into the Davidson market without actually being in Davidson.”

Streets bordering the triangular site handled about 30,000 cars a day when the most recent count was taken in 2004, and the trade area grew 25 percent between 2000 and 2007, he said.

For retailers, Wiggins said, the site has other pluses: Annual median household income in the area is more than $80,000, and “there is not a grocery store within three and a half miles.”

Crosland expects to break ground on the $23 million center by late 2009 and open stores by the fourth quarter of 2010.

Wiggins said the company has spent most of its time so far on the entitlement process and hasn't signed any tenants.

For Wayne Brothers, the process began over a year ago.

The company wanted to be voluntarily annexed into Kannapolis, which supported the commercial development over the objections of some Odell community residents worried about the density.

To proceed, Kannapolis leaders had to go to the state legislature because the property was outside its annexation limits.

The General Assembly removed a restriction that allowed the city to annex only three miles outside its limits and extended the distance to 31/2 miles.

Now that it's in Kannapolis, Goodman said, Wayne Brothers is spending about $1 million to extend 9,000 feet of sewer line, and the city is extending water lines to the park.

The 23-year-old company will occupy 35,000 square feet in its building by August 2009 and lease the rest to other tenants. It employs about 300 people, roughly 60 of whom will work in the new headquarters.

Wayne Brothers' site development group is preparing the land, installing infrastructure and performing general contractor duties for the park, Goodman said.

Officials said the building is to be constructed to “green” standards to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

And, as you would expect, a company in the concrete business certainly is going to demonstrate what concrete can do.

“There will be relatively little steel in the building,” Goodman said. “It will be concrete with post-tension cables.”

Post-tensioning is a method used in construction to strengthen concrete using steel strands or cables – typically referred to as tendons – so slabs can be built thinner.

Wayne recalled that 50 years ago the development tract was occupied by the then-rural area's only church league softball field, which became a community social venue and gathering place.

He envisions Concrescere bringing history full circle and creating another place where people can gather.