These were a couple of the questions asked of Assistant City Manager Ryan McReynolds during a Kingsport Kiwanis meeting Friday afternoon.
Earlier this year, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the purchase of the Regions Bank building on Broad Street for $2.82 million. The deal includes the six-story structure and a 72-space parking lot on New Street.
The purchase came about as the city was looking at ways to address overcrowding at the Justice Center and to bring all court functions — some of which are in city hall — under one roof. City officials have said the move will improve the efficiency of city government by consolidating more than 100 employees from six offices to one location.
Right now, Regions Bank is looking for a downtown location to build a new office, and, according to the timeline, Kingsport plans to fully occupy the Regions building by the summer of 2020.
McReynolds, who is the city’s point person on the project, spoke to the Kiwanis Club on Friday, giving them a presentation on the entire deal and answering some questions afterwards. Here’s what’s on the minds of the Kiwanians.
Q: How will the city handle parking at Regions Bank?
McReynolds: “We will direct the bulk of the employees to utilize the (New Street) parking lot. That’s why we’re buying it. Around the bank itself, there’s much more space than what we have around city hall. Right now the bulk of the employees park in the parking garage, so those employees would either park around here or the lot near Chef’s. We feel comfortable with the parking.”
Q: The ambiance this building has, as a bank, is normal. But it may not be understood by the taxpayers.
McReynolds: “It came to us at $35 a square foot, where if we build a building, at about $150 a square foot. It does have a very high finish. When we redo the downstairs, you’d almost have to spend money to not make it look as nice. The perception will be difficult. It’s a large, imposing building and we’re not going to have the “City of Kingsport” across the side. We’ll have a little monument sign.
Q: How long will it take to sell the remaining city buildings Regions will replace? Do you have any viable buyers?
McReynolds: “Each facility has had a lot of interest. The problem is the time frame. We’re having to temper the interest because we have to be in city hall until we can get into (Regions Bank). Center Street is attractive. The Midland Center already has a lot of people asking. The Improvement building, we’ve actually had Realtors bring people through the building. One of its highest values is, if you’re to gut it, is its proximity to the Justice Center.”
Q: What will the timeline be?
McReynolds: “We’re anticipating a closing on Regions in the fall. We will have the opportunity to go in on floors three through six. We anticipate beginning construction (to expand) the Justice Center this time next year. City hall activities will continue in city hall until more than two years from now. By that time, there will be a plan for (the old) city hall.”