Kannapolis, NC

Downtown Kannapolis

Dynamic Revitalization of an Old Mill Town

status

Ongoing

client

City of Kannapolis

expertise

Public Infrastructure, Public Realm + Open Space

services

Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Design, Master Planning, Land Planning

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Reigniting a Vibrant Downtown

Transitioning from a textile manufacturing town to a leader in biotech research, Kannapolis has a bold new vision to revitalize its downtown core – creating a thriving regional destination for commerce and entertainment, and a compelling address to call home.

Once a booming mill town built around the Cannon Mills textile manufacturing company in the early 1900s, the City of Kannapolis languished since the mill’s closure in 2003. With the old mill site now home to the NC Research Campus, a 350-acre biotechnological and health research campus, Kannapolis is seizing the opportunity to reimagine their economy and their future. In 2015, the city purchased 50 acres of downtown property and began a revitalization undertaking to transform this former textile mill town into a community-of-choice within the growing Charlotte region.

As the lead design consultant, LandDesign worked alongside city staff to develop a master plan and vision book for a 15-block area in downtown Kannapolis, and execute infrastructure and streetscape renovations to bring the city’s vision for a connected, vibrant downtown to life. The project scope includes utility infrastructure upgrades, major streetscape improvements, public parks and plazas, mixed use development, and a series of anchor projects that will drive activity in the historic core, including a performing arts center and a sports and entertainment venue.

The recently completed first phase — which included the relocation of the city’s minor league baseball team, the Cannon Ballers, into a ballpark in the heart of downtown — is set to catalyze downtown’s revitalization, creating a walkable arts and entertainment district along West Avenue, the city’s main street. LandDesign’s long-term relationship with the City of Kannapolis — which began in the 1980s with our involvement in the original streetscape planning for West Avenue, establishing the iconic row of oak trees that exist today — uncovered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-envision a new future for Kannapolis.

Our Vision

Bring Back the Spirit of Main Street by Forming a Pedestrian-Friendly Streetscape that Connects Downtown Businesses

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Capitalizing on the NC Research Campus’ nutritional focus, Kannapolis adopted a new “Healthy Living” identity. With the goal of reinforcing this new brand, the downtown redesign prioritizes pedestrian-friendly public space. At the heart of the Downtown Kannapolis revitalization plan is the creation of a signature street as the main community gathering space: West Avenue. The street maintains traffic flow and parking options, but by implementing a road diet and repositioning, it now encourages safe pedestrian activities along a linear open space. The linear park features a series of outdoor rooms that accommodate a variety of programming and open space activation, providing an equity of experience across the length of the streetscape. Adjacent amenities, like the ballpark and entertainment venue, complement the energy and activity staged on West Avenue to provide a rich platform for private retail and residential investments to thrive.

The Challenge

Ensure Long-Term Success Through Adaptable Infrastructure

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While the most visible piece of the project is the streetscape, the most critical and complex aspect of the project is the infrastructure beneath the surface. To ensure the long-term economic vitality of the downtown core, a significant investment in transportation and utility improvements was needed. LandDesign’s multi-disciplinary team worked closely with the city to creatively integrate functional yet attractive infrastructure enhancements to provide a high quality of life for downtown Kannapolis residents and businesses. These improvements — including water, sewer, natural gas, electricity, stormwater, and WiFi lines — allows the downtown to expand, change, and grow over the next several decades. However, they also increased the intricacy of the project, requiring additional coordination to design, engineer, and plan for.

Our Approach

Honor the City's Textile Past While Setting Course for a Well-Connected, Health-Focused Future

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Physical

Respect the historic integrity of downtown Kannapolis, leveraging existing assets – such as landmark buildings and mature oak trees – to evoke an established presence in the new downtown

Functional

Identify the ideal mix of uses and anchor tenants the downtown can support, right-sizing the scale of development to create a mixed use district that attracts diverse users and maintains the main street feel

Social

Activate the pedestrian environment with a vibrant linear park along West Avenue that creates a memorable and authentic experience, cultivates new traditions, and attracts a multi-generational community

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Physical

Respect the historic integrity of downtown Kannapolis, leveraging existing assets – such as landmark buildings and mature oak trees – to evoke an established presence in the new downtown

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Functional

Identify the ideal mix of uses and anchor tenants the downtown can support, right-sizing the scale of development to create a mixed use district that attracts diverse users and maintains the main street feel

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Social

Activate the pedestrian environment with a vibrant linear park along West Avenue that creates a memorable and authentic experience, cultivates new traditions, and attracts a multi-generational community

Custom Colorful Furniture

To incorporate special moments within the linear park, LandDesign partnered with Landscape Forms to design custom swings. With bright teal shade canopies, these playful swings grab the attention of passerby, inviting engagement. Modern, colorful furniture is distributed throughout the different outdoor rooms, providing a fresh and contemporary aesthetic reflective of Kannapolis, a city that is reinventing itself.

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Prioritize the Pedestrian Experience

The majority of the West Avenue right-of-way is now dedicated to pedestrians after rearranging street hierarchy and reallocating space, improving connectivity for an active, walkable streetscape.