Are developers ready to invest in Concord?

Are developers ready to invest in Concord?

Photo by Marty Price

By Marty Price. Small cities across the nation are trying to court private investors to revitalize their downtowns.  Kannapolis and Concord can be counted among the many municipalities that have recognized that private investment will build up their downtowns while increasing revenue through taxes.

Kannapolis has started the process, with private developers ready to invest millions of dollars in their new downtown plan. Revitalization has been underway for a dozen years in Concord; a new master plan offers a bold vision.

Picked as the county seat in 1776, the original town limits are marked on Union Street. The downtown grew and prospered, but it suffered like so many other downtowns when malls changed the shopping landscape. The city has nurtured downtown with special incentives for improvements, as well as a special agency, Concord Downtown Development.

All told the city has invested $1 million in downtown Concord over the years. Business Today asked Mayor Scott Padgett about downtown as the city launches a new era.

BT: What is the payoff for all that investment?

Padgett: “For what we are investing, we probably get five times as much back in the long run, in property taxes and sales taxes. More importantly it makes this a great place to live. People want to come here and it makes the people who are here feel good about where they live.”

BT: What are your thoughts on downtowns as economic development? How can you encourage more?

Padgett: “A downtown, no matter where you are, if your downtown is bad it’s like the core of a rotten apple. If the core is rotten the rest of the apple won’t be any good.

When you see nice downtowns now, they all have outside dining. We are going to need to widen our sidewalks for that, but we are not going to close Union Street. It is a too important roadway.”

BT: What order do you think should be followed for the new master plan to be effective?

Padgett: “First would be the 600-car parking deck that will be built on Barbrick Avenue.  We have sent out a request for proposal (RFP) for the old city hall (at 26 Union Street).  We are looking for a private developer to propose what they would do with that property and that would be next. We would like to see a mix of retail, office and residential put in place.

“That would be followed by a RFP on the annex (at the Corner of Union and Barbrick Avenue) and then The Plaza—an open area for entertainment and festivals on the land where the old police headquarters was located on Market Street.”

BT: Who are you trying to attract to the downtown area?

Padgett: “Millennials, the growing population of young people. They like having breweries, apartments and condos. A lot of millennials, and older people too, don’t want the one house on two acres. They want something convenient with little to no yardwork.”

BT: The residential downtown will be different from the historic homes that line Union Street. What’s the reaction?

Padgett: “People in Concord, and all over the U.S., are having to adjust to neighborhoods that are more condensed.  That has caused some adjustments because existing homeowners want similar construction but the market isn’t supporting it. We are all fearful of change and we need to get everyone to understand it is just a different way of living.”

BT: What helps attract millennials?

Padgett: “Bringing employers to provide jobs for the new people and those who already live here. Investment in the historic downtown while enhancing the quality of life they are searching for. Our arts council, festivals and tree lighting are things that make people say, ‘This is home, this is something I would like my children to see.’  The millennials like nostalgia and historic places. Not one of them has ever said ‘Hey I’d like to see your mall,’ but they do want to see Union Street. Everything that can make people feel good about the past and the future, they can feel in our downtown.”


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