Cornelius Square: Can Exit 27 round out LKN’s menu of developable land?

Nov. 18. By V. Tom Gardner. Cornelius’ mix of residential vs. commercial taxes, currently around 80 percent residential to 20 percent commercial, is seriously unbalanced, according to Mike Griffin, treasurer of the Lake Norman Economic Development Corp.

Speaking at the Business Today and Cornelius Today Newsmakers Breakfast this morning, Griffin said the proposed Exit 27 would open up key parcels of property—the Augustalee and Cook family sites—to intense office development.

RELATED: Lake Norman Economic Development Corp. ULI Exit 27 Study

It could be called the “Cornelius Square,” a unique approach to an exit and entrance on I-77 near where Westmoreland Road crosses I-77 about midway between West Catawba Avenue (Exit 28) and Sam Furr Road (Exit 25).

Griffin fielded questions from a Newsmakers Breakfast audience of about 75 people at The Peninsula Club. Griffin’s comments centered on a study conducted by the Urban Land Institute that was commissioned by the EDC. Cornelius Square could encompass as much as  339 acres – more than half of the undeveloped land remaining in Cornelius.

It would include a hotel with convention facilities, commercial office and around 200,000 square feet of retail, Griffin told the audience.

With at least 1.2 million square feet of corporate office space, a new exit, with a completely new design, Cornelius Square could take some of the tax burden off of homeowners.

With corporate headquarters, the project could “bring in over 6,000 new employees,” Griffin said, explaining that the mix between residential and commercial taxes could shift closer to 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The proposed Exit 27 interchange is unique because there isn’t a bridge immediately connecting both sides of the interstate, instead drivers will “immediately go into a round-about. . . it allows the roads to be gridded into a more traditional town feel,” said Griffin.

Then drivers could follow signs to use one of two nearby bridges to cross I-77, if needed.

Ryan McDaniels, executive director of the EDC,  said there are enormous benefits to new development at Westmoreland, especially if it attracts high-end, white-collar jobs.

“Every time we can bring someone back (to working in this area) … they spend more of their money locally, it just grows the small businesses,” McDaniels said. “It’s the big companies who bring in the thousands of employees, who shop locally.”

According to Griffin, this development is one of the best opportunities for Cornelius to increase its commercial tax base and address its “Retail Gap” problem of having more retail than its current population can support.

The project’s success is predicated on some form of widening of I-77, with toll lanes or without, Griffin, a partner at Cornelius-based Griffin Brothers Cos., said. He is in charge of civic and government relationships at the $50-million (revenue) private company.

The Newsmakers Breakfast was sponsored by The Knox Group, a commercial real estate company based in Huntersville; Donna Moffett Accountants and Consultants in Cornelius; and Davidson Wealth Management in Davidson.


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