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orulz

North Carolina Biotech Research Campus

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David Murdock, a billionare from California, is planning a major redevelopment of the Pillowtex plants in downtown Kannapolis that will change things so much that you won't recognize the place when he's done.

Here's the story:

Anyone who's been to downtown Kannapolis recently can tell that it has a great environment and a lot of potential. Cannon Village was built by the textile company back in the 1920s and refreshed some time in the '80s - so the architecture is very uniform - but it's got a neat sense of place. But in spite of the neat environment, downtown Kannapolis is rather underutilized. Why?

Well, Remember in 2003 when the Pillowtex plant in Kannapolis shut its doors? Thousands of people who worked at the factory downtown were out of a job all at once - it was the single largest layoff in North Carolina history. It left a bunch of hulking buildings surrounding downtown Kannapolis. The buildings were huge - plant 1 (there are four) was roughly the size of the Pentagon. The complex loomed large over the city, a reminder of how the end of the textile era in North Carolina has affected so many towns and so many people.

Enter Murdock. He bought up most of the complex, and began planning for a massive redevelopment of the whole area. Demolition on the hulking factories (most of which were just massive brick structures with few windows and little potential for reuse) begun last year with work on plant 4. Work on Plant 1 begun about two weeks ago.

There is much speculation as to what he's going to build there, but there's no question of the scale. It's going to be huge. We're talking a redevelopment on the same scale as Atlantic Station in Atlanta.

The headquarters building will remain, and become Kannapolis's new city hall; the rest? Murdock envisions a mixed-use "biopolis" - with biotech research facilities at the core, lots of apartments and condos, plenty of retail, and a science high school for girls. Nothing more specific about the plans have been released yet, but a big announcement is expected on September 12th. I think this is pretty exciting.

I'll post links to some articles later.

Edited by orulz

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neat. Is it close to anything that it could integrate into the infrastructure with? or is it in the middle of nowhere? I dont know too much about the area.

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Like I said, this is downtown Kannapolis. It's on the street grid, in the historic part of town. It's a quarter mile from the brand-new train station. Ever looked at a map of downtown Kannapolis, and wondered what that giant gap with no streets right in the middle of everything is? That's the site.

Check this image from Terraserver. The huge hulking buildings towards the top are the plant; the small buildings and street grid to the bottom are the downtown shopping district.

I've heard some people talk about using this as an impetus for commuter rail on the NCRR, but I have to assume that's at least a couple decades away.

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Actually NCSU, UNC, and Duke are supposed to collaborate on a fruit science research center. The details from a scientific standpoint are very shaky.

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Yeah, I read that some in-state universities will have a hand in what happens at the Pillowtex site, but as DanRNC says, details are not public yet.

I imagine we'll find out a lot more in a bit less than two weeks. :)

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I'm actually a grad student at Duke and know some of the details which as I said are very shaky and the universities have not even signed on yet. Collaboration between UNC and Duke is very complicated and I wouldn't expect any solid agreements for awhile. This is whats known so far:

UNC Chapel Hill School of Public Health will run an epidemiological project studying the correlation of fruit consumption on health.

Duke will run a fermentation facility and analytical chemistry facility.

NCSU will be involved in the agri-business aspects.

UNCC will help set up the girls school.

Don't expect the research component to be up for at least 5-10 years at the earliest.

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It's ironic as it was Murdock that destroyed the original Cannon Mills in the first place and left it in such a bad position that it eventually folded.

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Murdock owned the mills from 1982-1986. He also renovated Cannon Village (the downtown shopping district) during that time, and still owns it to this day. Yup, with his (re)acquisition of the Pillowtex mills, he owns pretty much all of downtown Kannapolis.

I find it rather curious that he still shows so much interest in the town. Maybe he has something to prove - and he wants to put Kannapolis back on the map? Maybe he'll rename it to Murdockville, and let this project be his legacy. :whistling:

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Murdock owned the mills from 1982-1986. He also renovated Cannon Village (the downtown shopping district) during that time, and still owns it to this day. Yup, with his (re)acquisition of the Pillowtex mills, he owns pretty much all of downtown Kannapolis.

I find it rather curious that he still shows so much interest in the town. Maybe he has something to prove - and he wants to put Kannapolis back on the map? Maybe he'll rename it to Murdockville, and let this project be his legacy.  :whistling:

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I will tell you that there is no love lost there between him and the residents. Name the place Murdockville and they will probably burn it down.

Cannon Village used to be a pretty nice place to visit, but it is mostly deserted now. The failure of the mill has really hurt the place.

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I've done a bit of reading on the Cannon Mills ordeal, and here's my initial thoughts.

I don't know whether all the blame should fall on Murdock in the first place. He did do some pretty crappy things, like raiding the pension fund. He also did some things that weren't so great to the people living there but probably would have happened anyway - he turned Kannapolis from a company town where Cannon owned everything and employees could rent homes for essentially nothing into a regular, incorporated town with market-rate rents.

He did, however, install modern new looms in the mills while he owned them, showing that to whatever end he was not strictly interested in raiding the mill's assets and pocketing the profits.

And lastly, let's remember that even IF the mill had remained as Cannon Mills, it would at least be struggling by now, perhaps even bankrupt or closed given the recent trends in the NC textile industry.

I realize all this does nothing to change how the locals feel about him.

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Murdock owned the mills from 1982-1986. He also renovated Cannon Village (the downtown shopping district) during that time, and still owns it to this day. Yup, with his (re)acquisition of the Pillowtex mills, he owns pretty much all of downtown Kannapolis.

I find it rather curious that he still shows so much interest in the town. Maybe he has something to prove - and he wants to put Kannapolis back on the map? Maybe he'll rename it to Murdockville, and let this project be his legacy.  :whistling:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The residents will call it Earnhartville before that every happens, and with alot of pride, lol.

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I was reading somewhere that close to 50% of Pillowtex workers did not have a high school degree. How in the heck can they sustain a biotech facility with workers who lack basic skills needed for this enterprise. The State has been approached with funding this place with $20-30 million annually. Could be a GTP-like boondoggle.

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I was reading somewhere that close to 50% of Pillowtex workers did not have a high school degree. How in the heck can they sustain a biotech facility with workers who lack basic skills needed for this enterprise. The State has been approached with funding this place with $20-30 million annually. Could be a GTP-like boondoggle.

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You're on to something with the whole lack of higher education issue. But, lets not forget that the state of North Carolina wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on GTP. It doesn't appear that the state will be funding this proposed biotech facility to the tune of 9 figures.

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1. Most of the money going into this project will be private. State universities may put some funds forth as a partnership for the research facilities, but for the most part this will be designed to benefit David Murdock so I highly doubt that the public share will be significant.

2. This location is not in the middle of nowhere 60 miles from the nearest freeway.

3. This project will include a large amount of residential development. Educated people move where the high-paying jobs are. Presumably, there will be high-paying jobs here.

4. UNC, Duke, NCSU, and UNCC are all rumored to be involved in this plan. No higher education? I doubt it. Kannapolis is not on an island.

5. Although I think this is more designed to draw educated folks to Kannapolis rather than provide employment for the folks who lost their jobs when the factory closed, there are still plenty of technician type jobs at research facilities that don't require a college degree. There will be retail and other associated jobs available as well due to the influx of people employed in the biotech industry.

6. As another aspect of this project, Murdock is building a fruit processing plant in Gaston county, which is supposed to benefit from the agri/bio-tech research in Kannapolis. This provides more jobs in the manufacturing sector as well, although not in Kannapolis.

If the Pillowtex redevelopment winds up being a boondoggle, I doubt that NC taxpayers will be the ones left on the hook.

Regarding GTP, though - remember that RTP sat around underutilized and undeveloped for decades before it started to take off in the 1980s. Who knows; something might end up happening at GTP a few decades from now.

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I don't agree with the "build and they will come" approach to biotech. It is much more complicated. RTP was a unique situation in that it was situated between 3 large, very well-recognized research universities with a ton of resources. It was also at the forefront of the tech/biotech trend years in advance. This proposal is another research park-type development attempted throughout the country, most being ultimate failures. I also don't understand what the ultimate goal of this project is-to make better processed food? There are already a ton of people working in plant biology/natural products. Most research will be conducted by UNC, Duke and NCSU which brings in another question of these universities doing work for one corporate entity-Dole Foods. What if Mr. Murdoch doesn't like the data he sees? Does his funding end? If Murdoch wants this project, let him pay for it, set up the research, conduct the research etc.

The lifestyle in the Triangle area also contributed to RTPs success (an intellectual center) which I don't see in Kannapolis frankly as I am from area originally. NASCAR and gated golf communities doesn't attract top-flite researchers.

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the triangle area is a sprawl nightmare. what quality of life? kannapolis is a walkable city just waiting to be discovered. i boldly predict a large sucking sound coming from the rtp.

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the triangle area is a sprawl nightmare. what quality of life? kannapolis is a walkable city just waiting to be discovered. i boldly predict a large sucking sound coming from the rtp.

Walk to where is the question? Don't hold your breath on the sucking sound. I live in Chapel Hill, a pretty walkable city. If you want to give facts to support your case then I will respond but your argument is the typical Charlotte-area inferiority complex.

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Walk to where is the question? Don't hold your breath on the sucking sound. I live in Chapel Hill, a pretty walkable city. If you want to give facts to support your case then I will respond but your argument is the typical Charlotte-area inferiority complex.

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Chapel Hill is walkable because of the university. It doesn't have any bioresearch/scientific research other than the UNC facilities and its hospital. While Charlotte certainly isn't as walkable as places like New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia, it definitely is more walkable than the Triangle as a whole. We actually have one defined city center with corridors radiating out from the center. Don't try to tell me Cary, Raleigh, or Durham are more walkable cities. While Charlotte does have its fair share of sprawl and poor planning, the Triangle's situation makes Charlotte's look like a cake walk. Don't give us crap because we have some density and are in the process of making our city even more dense, as well as correcting poor planning, better connecting streets, and making our city into a vibrant urban metropolis.

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I am not going to have this discourse here over which metro is more sprawledin NC. No more bashing of Raleigh vs Charlotte and vice versa on UrbanPlanet. There are other forums where you can go and fight each other to your heart's content.

Skysdalimit, you have been warned many times about being a stupid kid at UrbanPlanet so you have just made your last post here. In the words of Anne Robinson (and I doubt you know who that is) Goodbye!

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Thank you monsoon. I am tired as well over this city bashing garbage and the sophmoric "my city is better than yours" duals. Its absolutely worthless. I merely made points on why this project may or may not work-which is intelligent discourse.

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You are welcome.

Back to the subject of hand. During my travels through Kannapolis, I have noticed that it is one of the most gridded towns in the Metrolina area. This is especially around the Cannon Village area. It also benefits from having a NC Passenger Rail station right in the center of town. This is something that most of the cities (including Charlotte for now) can't say they have and is a nice benefit for Kannapolis. The station is brand new and worth a visit if you want to see a new rail station close to Charlotte.

If Murdoch is successful, he may very well create a nice walkable city.

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