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Monday, May 27, 2024

Kings Mountain looks to reverse years of stagnant growth

One of the largest proposed developments in Kings Mountain’s history is the result of months of negotiations between a Greenville, South Carolina, developer and the city, says City Manager Jim Palenick.

Insignis Partners, an investment and real estate development firm, filed plans with the city in late August to rezone a 384-acre property near the Catawba Two Kings Casino and Exit 5 of Interstate 85 (Dixon School Road). The project, referred to as Dixon Ridge, envisions a “vibrant mix of industrial, research and development, and residential space along a growing corridor of economic development,” states a joint press statement released by the developer and the city. It’s the first major development near the casino the Catawba Indian Nation opened on July 1, 2021.

“Submitting our application for this project is such a significant step forward for something that’s taken us 18 months to create and fine tune. And now, everything becomes a lot more real, which is exciting,” Insignis Managing Partner and Co-Founder Paul Sparks said in a release.  

The mixed-use development includes about 5 million square feet of new buildings consisting of 1,600 apartments and townhomes, industrial and office space. Insignis expects the project to exceed $750 million in value at full build out. Insignis’ plans include over 57 acres of open space, pickleball and tennis courts, parks and walking trails, and a greenway trail system for pedestrians and bicyclists that will connect to nearby city-owned lake properties.

“This will set the standard for what happens afterward. What we’ve arranged, I think, is in the best interest of the developers and the residents of Kings Mountain,” says Palenick, who has been the town’s manager since January. He says the project could come to define the area just as the Research Triangle Park has helped define the Raleigh-Durham metro.

City Council has scheduled an Oct. 12 public meeting to discuss the project, says Mayor Scott Neisler. He expects the project to have some opposition in the community, but says he believes a majority on council favors the plan. “We’re positioned to develop the way we want our community to develop,” he says.

Kings Mountain has experienced stagnant growth for several years, with its 2020 population of 11,200 residents only growing by about 500 people from the 2010 census. “We need economic vitality that will give people jobs in the future,” Palenick says. 

Last week, Kings Mountain learned Charlotte-based Albemarle Corporation plans to reopen a lithium mine within the next several years in another part of the city. The Department of Defense awarded Albemarle $90 million as the Biden Administration seeks to have more lithium produced in the U.S. for electric vehicle batteries.

Neisler says Kings Mountain can help with lithium production. Mining in the area stopped in the 1980s, he says, but reopening mining operations could bring 200-plus jobs that pay average wages of $90,000. Neisler says mining will help the local economy and help the country be less dependent on foreign countries for electric vehicle batteries.

Albemarle expects the lithium mine in Kings Mountain to be operational between 2025 and 2030.

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