Development History of Kannapolis

I want to start my coverage of Kannapolis, NC with its development history. This history should help provide context for why Kannapolis has developed the way it has and help readers understand my future posts. Kannapolis originally developed around Cannon Mills, which were known as the Largest Manufacturers of Towels in the World. These words were proudly displayed with a large sign that could be seen from the railroad.

Kannapolis Mill Town

Since Kannapolis was a mill town before being altered by the North Carolina Research Campus, it originally developed around the needs of the mill workers. “All aspects of life, from housing to road infrastructure to recreation and services, centered around mill operations.” During its time as a mill town and before its incorporation in 1984, the needs of Kannapolis were provided by the Cannon family, which owned Cannon Mills. This all changed in 1984 when “the citizens of Kannapolis voted to incorporate, transforming the largest unincorporated ara in the United States into the 16th largest city in North Carolina.”

In some ways, Kannapolis never really changed after its incorporation because most of downtown Kannapolis is owned and developed through a public-private partnership called the North Carolina Research Campus. As the below photo shows, which is from the Kannapolis Center City Master Plan, this has resulted in Kannapolis having at least two major developers. The North Carolina Research Campus is working to develop its campus in downtown Kannapolis and the City of Kannapolis is working to develop Kannapolis as a whole.

Kannapolis City Owned Property

Now that you know the development history of Kannapolis, I will begin posting about how Kannapolis’ current development is impacting its livability. While I plan to discuss many aspects of livability, my focus will be on how well Kannapolis provides safe and convenient transportation choices. In order to facilitate this discussion, I plan to show how safe or unsafe the roads in Kannapolis are for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and motorists. Along with the unsafe examples, I plan to discuss what Kannapolis is doing to make the roads safer for all road users. I truly appreciate all the work that the City of Kannapolis, Concord Kannapolis Area Transit, Cabarrus Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization, Centralina Council of Governments, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and many Kannapolis residents and visitors are doing to make Kannapolis roads safer for all road users. This topic was inspired by Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design 2014, which was released today.

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7 thoughts on “Development History of Kannapolis

  1. Kim Ballard says:

    Ray–Where are the quotations you use in the blog originally published? Or maybe I’m misreading your use of quotation marks? Thanks for the use of the classic picture as well as the graphic of city owned property. Looking forward to more blog posts.

    • Kim, thank you for reading my blog! I have inserted the links to where I found the statements within the statements. You should be able to click on the links by clicking on the quoted areas. Let me know if you have difficulty doing this or have further questions. Glad you enjoyed the photo and graphic. I have several ideas for what I want to blog about, but am open to hearing ideas from those who read my blog so feel free to suggest ideas for future blog posts.

    • I am new to blogging so am learning as I go. I just found out how to change the text color so you should be able to see the quoted statements now. Let me know if the new text color works for you.

  2. LARRY HAYER says:

    I believe Levittown, New York was a larger unincorporated area. The “City Owned” map is incorrect. Atlantic American Properties owns most of downtown as well as the Research Campus. I agree that nearly all of Kannapolis is unsafe for pedestrians and bikers. A colleague of mine was struck by a car in a crosswalk in front of Brown HS and was not charged with a crime. Students call crossing the road “playing Froger.”
    I think we should have walkways and bike paths along every thoroughfare out to the city limits. The recent RR crossing redo on Rogers Lake Road is not pedestrian friendly.
    I could go on and on.

  3. Larry, thank you for your comment. I apologize for my slow reply. You make an interesting point about Levittown, NY. I assumed what I read was true, but will look into it. I believe the “City Owned” map is correct because the blue highlighted areas, which are so few, represent the city-owned properties. I agree Atlantic American Properties owns most of downtown and the NCRC. Thanks for sharing how you also feel that walking and biking in Kannapolis is unsafe. I look forward to more comments from you!

  4. LARRY HAYER says:

    Kannapolis is much more than just the “downtown” area. I grew up in a neighborhood that used to be the Town of Glass. The Glass train station was about where now named Lowrance Avenue enters South Main. Most of the streets and roads more than three quarters of a mile from Plant one were privately developed as individuals built houses on former farm land. Nearly all the roads were dirt until a decade of so after WWII. Midway was so named because it was half way between the Kannapolis and Glass post offices. The Glass post office was in Triece’s Store until was absorbed by kannapolis in the 1920s. The Book Trader occupies the former store.

    Judge Clarence Horton did a time line of Kannapolis history about ten years ago. I can get you a copy if you want.

  5. Larry, I agree with you that Kannapolis is much more than just the downtown area. Since I was planning to start by writing mostly about downtown Kannapolis, I decided to limit the scope of the history to downtown Kannapolis. As I write further about Kannapolis in the future, I plan to discuss the history of other neighborhoods of Kannapolis.

    I have actually heard of Glass because I researched the history of Kannapolis (mostly downtown) for my senior exit project at Northwest Cabarrus High School. I graduated high school in 2009 so Kannapolis was and still is experiencing many changes with the shift from textiles to biotechnology. My senior exit project was called the Impact of the North Carolina Research Campus on Kannapolis. Even though there was so much I could have included in my senior exit project, I decided to focus on how the infrastructure was being impacted.

    Thanks for sharing the following. “Most of the streets and roads more than three quarters of a mile from Plant one were privately developed as individuals built houses on former farm land. Nearly all the roads were dirt until a decade of so after WWII.” I am very interested in learning more about the development history of streets and roads in Kannapolis. I need to stop by the Foy & Gertrude Hinson History Room and Kannapolis Museum at A.L. Brown High School.

    I have been hearing from other Kannapolis residents that Kannapolis used to be walkable and people used to walk everywhere in Kannapolis. One person informed me that people in Kannapolis used to drive an automobile only one day a week so they could pick up groceries. The person also informed me that people in Kannapolis walked to and from Cannon Mills. Do you agree with this person that Kannapolis used to be walkable and people in Kannapolis used to walk everywhere? When, why and how did Kannapolis become unwalkable? When and why did people in Kannapolis stop walking everywhere?

    “Judge Clarence Horton did a time line of Kannapolis history about ten years ago. I can get you a copy if you want.” I would love to get a copy! I will contact you on facebook to arrange a time and place to meet. Thanks for offering!

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