Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant called the city’s recent purchase of 42 acres of prime downtown real estate a historic moment that will launch a new chapter in the former mill town’s rich history.
Kannapolis leaders bought the land from David Murdock – billionaire Dole Food Co. owner and founder of the North Carolina Research Campus – for $5.55 million for property with a tax value of roughly $23 million, according to the city.
The purchase includes eight blocks of buildings on Oak Avenue, West Avenue, South Main Street and West First Street. The former Cannon Village, the Gem Theatre, the Kannapolis City Hall offices and the Kannapolis Police Department are also within the 653,395-square-foot space.
City Council members and the mayor on March 16 signed an intent to purchase contract. A public hearing regarding the purchase is planned for May 11. City leaders say plans for the planned revitalization effort will be made public before that meeting.
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This deal will help the city plan for future development while improving its economic health, said Hinnant.
“We do not plan on being in the real estate business long-term,” Hinnant said. “Once we identify the best uses and partners, we will look to sell the property for revitalization and redevelopment purposes.”
Because Murdock has been such an ally to the city, he was willing to work with the city on the price and terms, Hinnant said. Murdock’s effort will strengthen the success of the research campus and help revitalize downtown.
“Mr. Murdock does not want to sell to anyone else,” Hinnant said. “He believes the city should be in control of its own destiny… and he was willing to sell to us at a very reasonable price. Together, our collaboration will result in a more economically healthy city.”
Murdock released this statement about the purchase: “I am excited to work hand in hand with the city council as they focus on redevelopment initiatives in the downtown as I continue to focus on the scientific growth of the research campus. Both of these components are critical to the future economic growth and development of our community.”
Hinnant expects the purchase will spur residential, office, commercial and educational uses, performing and cultural arts centers and a downtown athletic stadium.
These plans will take a decade or longer to finish, Hinnant said. “We want to do this right,” he said. “This will be a strategic, well-thought-out plan.”
The move also will boost the tax base, create jobs and attract corporations, Hinnant said.
To lure developers, the nonprofit Development Finance Initiative at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government will help attract private investment for projects.
The city began to explore acquiring the property last summer after completing studies about economic development, transportation, infrastructure and parks and recreation.
The buildings were constructed between 1920 and 1987 and, during the past six months, the city has evaluated their structural integrity, electrical systems, environmental conditions and infrastructure, according to city leaders.
Some buildings will need minor repairs or renovations while others may need to be removed. Updating infrastructure, including water, sewer, stormwater drainage and landscaping also have to be considered.
The city estimates costs for those to be about $14 million. If approved, those costs would be spread out over 10 years as the revitalization plan is implemented. The purchase of the land and improvements would be paid with the sale of bonds.
The city also owns 17 acres of additional downtown property which includes Village Park, Veterans Park, the Dale Earnhardt Tribute, train station and the new City Hall and Police Headquarters.