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Is Stone Drive KIA franchise on the way to Tri-Cities Crossing?

Hank Hayes • Jun 6, 2018 at 9:01 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Economic Development Board (KEDB) approved a so-called “Estoppel Agreement” Tuesday that could take the KIA franchise on Stone Drive to the Tri-Cities Crossing development.

KEDB Legal Counsel Gorman Waddell said a group called Vision Automotive holds the KIA automotive franchise and has been negotiating a deal with developer Stewart Taylor to relocate their operation from their present location on Stone Drive to Taylor’s Tri-Cities Crossing at the intersection of Interstates 81 and 26.

“They have leased property from Stewart on which they plan to build their new facility,” Waddell told board members.

Vision Automotive, according to Waddell, has negotiated or is in the process of negotiating a loan with New Peoples Bank.

Waddell added that as part of the bank’s requirement from a collateral standpoint, the bank wants a sales tax rebate allowed under the Border Region Retail Tourism law extended this year by the Tennessee General Assembly for five years.

“What the bank has requested is under the present procedure, when we get sales tax from the state Department of Revenue, we can utilize that for the developer for certain expenses that have been incurred in developing the property,” Waddell noted.

The law allows a portion of the sales tax revenue to be used for “payment of the cost of the economic development project,” including principal and interest on debt.

The extension takes the law’s expiration date to the 2026-2027 fiscal year.

The law took effect in 2011 and is credited with helping develop The Pinnacle shopping center in Bristol, Tenn. The law was written for a development “reasonably anticipated” to draw at least 1 million visitors a year with a capital investment of at least $20 million.

A preliminary auto mall concept plan at the Tri-Cities Crossing development was approved by the Kingsport Planning Commission and Gateway Review Commission in 2016.

Rick Hill, of Rick Hill Imports, during 2016 and 2017 talked of a plan that would move his Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Lexus and Toyota brands from Stone Drive to the Tri-Cities Crossing site.

Taylor has attempted to develop the site for more than five years. During a March 2013 groundbreaking, he had called his development Heritage Point Towne Center, a planned shopping complex designed to hold 1 million square feet of retail, entertainment and dining facilities. He proceeded with grading despite not having a committed anchor tenant.

Hill previously suggested an auto mall concept would give the vehicle brands future increased capacity and updated facilities.

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