Downtown

 

FINALLY...changes are coming to Highway 75!

With the upcoming arrival of Union County sewer service, immediate improvements will be able to occur.

Property owners and businesses have been unable to expand their businesses or, in some cases, even keep existing ones open due to lack of sewer service. Septic syatems downtown, always an "iffy" solution at best due to very poor soil conditions, have become all but unable to be used due to stricter environmental health regulations and deterioration of existing drainfields. For example, your new fire department headquarters has been required to operate on a "pump and haul" basis since opening in 2009.

Since downtown property owners have been unable to develop their land or, in many cases, even rent existing space, they have had no incentive to maintain or improve their property, and downtown Mineral Springs has become notoriously "run down".

The county sewer line, expected to be completed within a year, will allow immediate improvement to buildings and properties located directly on Highway 75. Several property owners have already pledged their commitment to opening new businesses, including restaurants and additional retail shops.

Zoning guidelines that will create higher-quality buildings and grounds are already in place:

On October 9, 2003, council adopted a "downtown overlay" zoning district: a set of guidelines governing new development in the area of Mineral Springs immediately surrounding the intersection of Potter Road and Highway 75. These guidelines are intended to promote a "Main Street" style of downtown development, requiring the construction of streets on a grid layout with storefronts facing sidewalks, and with a combination of on-street parking in the front of shops and parking lots behind the buildings within blocks. The result will be a "real" downtown where people might choose to linger and meet and where pedestrian activity is encouraged, rather than just another cold, unfriendly "big-box" shopping center surrounded by acres of asphalt parking lot. In keeping with our town's commitment to remain a more traditional rural community, such a design promises to set downtown Mineral Springs apart as a special place for our residents to work and shop.

Several workgroups from the UNCC Community Design Class devoted their time to developing and presenting alternative designs for the downtown district. Factors such as building design and street layout were considered. Even ideas such as residential uses above storefronts and small downtown parks and open spaces entered into the design proposals. Methods to successfully integrate larger retail facilities such as grocery stores into the storefront model were explored. For example, the CVS pharmacy chain recently completed a full-size version of one of their stores located completely within a storefront-style building in Davidson, a project that should inspire similar ideas in Mineral Springs.

...and longer-term plans for a truly unique mixed-use downtown business district are now closer to reality with new sewer service and an improving economy:

The property known as the "old school property", approximately 29 acres located just behind the Kangaroo/Subway and the other Highway 75-fronting homes and businesses, has long been seen as an excellent location for anchoring new downtown construction. This property was  purchased eight years ago by a joint venture partnership of retail developer Raley-Miller Properties and the real estate division of Harris-Teeter. Mr. Larry Raley attended the first UNCC presentation on September 29, 2005 and at that time he told me:

  • his company and Harris-Teeter are viewing this property simply as a long-range prospect, and have purchased it now to secure future opportunities;
  • retail development is based almost entirely on market demand, and in the opinion of these experts in retail development there is currently not a sufficient population base in the necessary locations to support a facility such as a full-service grocery store in downtown Mineral Springs;
  • as residential construction takes place south and east of Mineral Springs, downtown retail development should be practical within five years;
  • his company will have no problems running sewer lines to serve any retail and other development they undertake on that site, as soon as Union County Public Works makes sewer and water capacity available;
  • our downtown overlay district requirements are not an impediment to him; in fact, he is looking forward to working with town officials on this unique opportunity to build a "signature" downtown mixed-use project.

Current economic conditions, especially in the retail sector, have slowed Raley Miller's plans. What was a five-year plan has become a ten- to fifteen-year plan. But not only will sewer lines now be directly available for this project, but Union County's persistent lack of treatment capacity that was slowing major development for years has been corrected by the upcoming expansion of the county's Twelve Mile Creek wastewater treatment plant.

Raley Miller remains committed to the Mineral Springs site, and your town council remains "on board" with Mr. Raley's conceptual site plan:

click for large image

A key component of the proposed downtown district is the new Mineral Springs town hall. In 2009, the town completed renovation of the former library building on a 1.05-acre portion of the old Mineral Springs School site. This project was designed by Charlotte architecture firm Pease Associates, and built by Union-County-based general contractor Book Construction.

MOST IMPORTANT: your new town hall was completed with NO DEBT, instead utilizing funds that your town council had been setting aside for this specific purpose. Imagine that: a government entity actually saving money to build a needed facility without borrowing money and saddling taxpayers with massive debt-service payments. This is the type of truly "conservative" government you can expect from me and your town council.

I am proud of the vision and foresight of your planning board and town council, and am equally proud of my leadership on this important issue. When our downtown business district is developed according to our plan, it will be an asset to be enjoyed by many future generations of Mineral Springs residents.


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