Last week a Sullivan County judge upheld the city’s decision to order the Hog Wild to be demolished. The building has been closed since March after a deadly shooting took place inside and city officials found the structure to be suffering from numerous code and safety violations.
Kingsport’s building official ordered the saloon be demolished, but the new owners of the building — the nonprofit organization Engage Tri-Cities — appealed the decision to Sullivan County Chancery Court, essentially saying they have a plan to remodel the building and transform it into a job resource center for the homeless and low-income families.
However, Judge John McClellan ruled that his judgment could not replace that of Kingsport’s building official, which means the Hog Wild is still condemned and ordered to be demolished.
During a Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session earlier this week, city leaders indicated they would be willing to work with Engage Tri-Cities on coming up with a time table for the renovation project.
“Absolutely,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming when asked about the possibility of working with Engage Tri-Cities. “As long as no one is in the building, it’s not posing a safety hazard. We have some discretionary time before we have to go (the demolition) route.
“We would like to get with them and understand and develop what is a reasonable time frame to expect them to be able to bring the building up to current code.”
Johnathon Anderson, who founded Engage Tri-Cities two years ago with his wife, Carla, said he plans to reach out to the city soon, if it doesn’t reach out to him first.
“Our position is still the same — it’s our desire to renovate the property,” Anderson said. “We’d like to have a little time so we could present a plan to them and a timeline and hopefully get the green light to move forward from there.”
IN NEED OF REPAIR
Kingsport estimates the building is worth only $180,000 in its current condition and that at least $235,000 would be needed to bring it up to code and make it fit for public use. It needs a new roof, interior improvements, electrical upgrades and possibly more work.
Anderson’s ballpark number for the repairs is around $150,000, which includes in-kind donations.
A Kingsport architect has been working with Anderson on the property, is familiar with it and has gone to it numerous times. A Morristown company has agreed to put a new roof on the building, and several other contractors — of notable size — are ready to come on board as well, Anderson said.
“We plan to meet with a couple of general contractors next week once we have everything nailed down, and hopefully within the next two weeks we’ll have a plan for the city and ideally get moving at the beginning of the year,” Anderson said. “Realistically, nine months is probably a pretty solid time frame.”
PLAN MOVING FORWARD
Going around the table at last week’s meeting, city leaders said Engage Tri-Cities could have four to six months to bring the building up to code. Right now, no time table is set in stone.
Fleming said from the city’s standpoint, he wants to make sure the building is safe for occupancy, if possible, and to give Engage Tri-Cities enough time to determine if it’s affordable to do that.
“Hopefully, through their outreach they’ve been able to connect with professionals who have the expertise to put together a definitive plan and time frame for these code violations to be addressed,” Fleming said.