KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — City council members made it official Monday: The City of Kannapolis is buying its downtown.
The council signed a resolution Monday authorizing the purchase of 46 acres of downtown property – eight blocks in the heart of the city – from David Murdock for $5.5 million.
As the council members prepared to vote on the resolution at the Kannapolis Train Station, Mayor Darrell Hinnant asked them to stand up instead of raising their hands to signal a “yes” vote. The council stood as one, bringing cheers from the crowded room.
“Most of the time when this place is full like it is today, it’s because we’ve done something wrong,” Hinnant said with a laugh, getting chuckles from the crowd. “So, it is nice to hear you come and applaud for something that we do correctly.”
All joking aside, city leaders and those who came to watch understood the moment’s historical significance.
“How many people are able to completely recreate and revitalize their downtown?” Hinnant asked. “We have that opportunity. We are going to be able to invest in our city for the current generation and for our children’s generation and theirs as well. We are going to need your help – your input as we make decisions that will benefit everybody in our city.”
The purchase includes eight blocks of buildings located on Oak Avenue, West Avenue, S. Main Street and West First Street. This property includes the former Cannon Village, the Gem Theatre, the current Kannapolis City Hall offices, Wells Fargo Bank, the current Kannapolis Police Department and the former Plant 4 site. The buildings have a total of 653,395 square feet. The buildings were constructed between 1920 and 1987.
On Monday, city officials said the city will “inherit” the leases of the businesses that currently operate in downtown, including the Gem Theatre. Other inherited leases include those for Restaurant 46, and the offices for Castle & Cooke, Inc. and Atlantic American Properties, Inc., which are businesses operated by Murdock. As part of the agreement with the city, those businesses will each have a lease rate of $1 a year for the next 10 years.
The lease properties will also include the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s cosmetology program, which is relocating to the former Belk building. As part of the original contracts, the school was scheduled to reimburse Atlantic American Properties, Inc. for renovations, totaling $733,000. Now, those reimbursements will go to the City of Kannapolis.
Historic Tax Credits critical
But officials said that in order for the downtown Kannapolis area to be revitalized, the town will have to pay for expensive renovations, and Hinnant asked residents to contact their legislators to encourage them to reinstate the Historic Tax Credits to offset those costs.
Last year the North Carolina General Assembly allowed the Historic Tax Credits to expire, impacting many communities that relied on the credits.
The HTC provided a 20 percent state tax credit for rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties that also qualify for 20 percent federal investment tax credit. The General Assembly allowed the tax credit to expire Jan. 1.
Hinnant said experts have told city officials that it will take about a decade to renovate downtown Kannapolis with tax credits in place. But with no HTC, he said, those renovations could take 20 years.
Now that the City of Kannapolis looks to own the downtown area, officials will begin seeking input from the community, planning public information sessions and asking residents what they would like to see in their downtown area.
More than 100 people gathered at the train station for the historic occasion. Among those attending were Mike Downs, Cabarrus County manager; Steve Morris, Cabarrus County commissioner; Donna Hunt Carpenter, president/CEO of Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Margie Bukowski, senior vice president with Cabarrus Economic Development; Amos McClorey, president of the Cabarrus County NAACP; Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; Brian Hiatt, City of Concord manager; Pam Cain, superintendent of Kannapolis City Schools; and Eric Dearmon, president of Downtown Kannapolis Inc.
Contact reporter Michael Knox at 704-789-9133.