Friday, October 14, 2016

Davidson acting as developer on multiple projects?

Davidson Mayor John Woods is fond of recounting population numbers whenever there’s a discussion regarding regional growth at Davidson Town Hall.  Over the years, regulars at town events have heard multiple times the comparison of Davidson’s population growth to its neighbors.  Davidson has long had a reputation for controlling growth, sometimes being accused of being heavy-handed in comparison to other Lake Norman towns.

To be fair though, the statistics are pretty startling.

According Google, in 1990 local towns had relatively tiny populations.  Davidson sported 4182 residents.  Cornelius came in at 5067, and Huntersville had just 6653. Mooresville was a relative metropolis at 11,257.  Compare those to 2013.  Davidson had 11,750 – up 281%.  Cornelius was at 26,898 – over 450%.  Huntersville was at 50,458 – a mind boggling 758%.  Mooresville leapt to 34,887 –  a relatively Davidson-tame  - 300%.

As everywhere, this frantic pace came to a screeching halt with the Great Recession.  Over the past two years however the pace has started to pick back up and growth, like it or not (with “not” being the most common sentiment), has ramped back up.  What seems very noticeable with this wave of development, particularly in Davidson, is the level of involvement where the local government is playing the role of “developer”.

Davidson has no less than five different projects in various stages of planning where the town is driving the discussion.

In August, the Town officially pulled the plug on the controversial Catalyst Project that would have potentially brought a massive mixed use commercial/residential/public sector project to the current Town Hall site on Main Street.  In its place however, last month Davidson put out a Request for Quote (RFQ) for design firms to propose just public uses for parking, a remodel of the exiting Town Hall, and a new municipal building on Main Street next to the JJWade building.  The town planned a second RFQ for Public Works as well, but that was decided against because design work already completed is sufficient to proceed without one.  How these projects would be paid for is still unclear but they could result in Davidson pursuing its firs ever general obligation bond requiring voter approval.

(Correction: The original version of this post said the Town had a 2nd RFQ "in the works".  Notice that this one had been canceled came after publication deadline.)

The town also has two Requests for Proposal (RFPs) out for other projects on other town owned land.

The first is an affordable housing project in the Bailey Springs neighborhood.  The town received just two responses from builders interested in the property.  In both cases the builders wanted the land for free, and while no official announcement has been made at this time, all indications are that something will move forward here.

The other RFP could be a much bigger deal.  The town is seeking proposals for a large mixed use development on its 18 acre property along Beaty Street ending at the intersection with NC115 just north of downtown. Responses are due back in early December.  The RFP states the Town plans to make a decision by February 2017 on whether or not to move forward.  It should be noted however that the a developer approached the Town prior to the RFP going out and that had at least something to do with getting this effort underway.  That could be read as at least one acceptable proposal may already be on the table.

Finally at this past Tuesday’s Board meeting, the town was slated to put the finishing touches on financing  before breaking ground on the long awaited Fire Station #2 on Davidson’s East Side.  Of all the projects on this list, this is the one, maybe the one that’s most truly needed.  This project off Davidson-Concord Road by the Beaver Dam House will close a long term gap in fire service that has been covered via a contract with the Odell fire station in Cabarrus County.

With so much private sector development coming, it’s not surprising to see the town looking at more municipal infrastructure projects to support it.  It is surprising however to see the appetite at Davidson Hall for looking at projects to bring more residents as well (the now defeated Catalyst, more affordable housing units, and what could be a major residential component at Beaty street.)

My how times have changed.

This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at

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