What would John say?

Hank Hayes • Dec 4, 2017 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT – What would John Nolen think?

In the early 20th Century, the architect John Nolen created the design template that would be downtown Kingsport.

“Their hope was that by providing housing, service and employment, in an area of breathtaking natural beauty, they would attract settlers,” according to a Nolen biography posted at www.stateoffranklin.net. “ … The plan consisted of a civic and commercial center, four neighborhoods with parks in each, and two industrial districts.”

That downtown design is not getting a 21st Century makeover, but is getting a master plan that will be incorporated into the city’s land use plan, said City Manager Jeff Fleming.

“Think of this as being a 10-year plus plan leading to 2030 a long-term vision,” Adam Williamson, senior principal at Atlanta-based TSW Design, said during a Kingsport Higher Education Center meeting to show ideas and slides for the master plan draft.

TSW Design’s Laura Richter said more than 500 people – with over 400 living in Kingsport – responded to a survey to get their input on what they wanted downtown.

“The number one response was fine dining and entertainment, day and night activities,” she said of the survey results. “(They want) more recreational areas, theatre and the arts … the top transportation concern was parking. We asked people if they would be willing to move downtown. Sixty percent said ‘no,’ but 40 percent said ‘yes,’ which is a good percentage of people.”

Respondents, Richter added, also wanted older buildings overhauled to increase downtown’s attractiveness, plus more green spaces and a venue for events and community celebrations.

Williamson suggested downtown could be divided up into a so-called “warehouse” district west of Broad Street with more residential units and restaurants. In that district is the planned 265-unit Town Park Lofts to be built on the old Supermarket Row site.

“More people living in downtown will help restaurants and retail, and lift downtown up,” he pointed out.

Williamson showed a slide with circles marking five-minute walks in the downtown area. “Most people are willing to walk five minutes at least,” he said.

He stressed that if City Hall is moved to the Region’s Bank building on Broad Street, the City Hall site could become office space. The U.S. Post Office building on Center Street, he added, could be converted into a brewery.

“Initially we had Pal’s (downtown location) going away then we learned very quickly that was a mistake,” Williamson joked.

Broad Street, Williamson said, could be an “arts and entertainment” district filled with restaurants and retail.

“It’s hard to compete with Amazon,” he admitted. “It’s hard to compete with WalMart … the arts and entertainment district could be restaurant centric. If you could get a mass of restaurants on Broad Street or Five Points … it would attract people.”

A draft plan presentation for the downtown master plan is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2018.

The video below is an example of a downtown cycling greenway cited in Williamson’s presentation.

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