Kingsport may buy Tire Centers property downtown

Matthew Lane • Feb 19, 2007 at 11:39 AM

KINGSPORT - Kingsport apparently needs the space.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to consider purchasing the old Tire Centers Inc. building and parking lot during its regular meeting tonight. The proposal calls for the city to purchase the building - located at 320 W. Market St. - for $165,000, to pay $1,500 for a title search and recording fees, and pay $2,375 for environmental concerns at the site.

The owners were initially asking in the high $180,000s for the building, which according to City Manager John Campbell appraised at $170,000.

If approved tonight, the BMA will vote on second reading during a called meeting Wednesday night to approve the purchase of the building.

Campbell said for the short term the city plans to use the building for storage of city records and surplus city property, such as old computers, desks and chairs.

"It certainly has very easy access with garage doors and several areas that give us the opportunity to do several types of surplus property," Campbell said. "It has a closed-off space in the back where tires were stored and can now be used. There's an office where records could be stored and the main room where the lifts were ... any number of things could be stored in there."

The environmental work to be performed at the site would be minimal, Campbell said.

"We have to seal off an old fuel tank that was used for heating," he said. "And if we take the lifts out we'd have to take out the hydraulic fluid and put it somewhere appropriate. I'm not sure we need to take them out right now."

Two weeks ago when this issue was first mentioned to the BMA, an issue of using the basement of the Civic Auditorium for storage was raised. Campbell said he does not see that idea as a long-term solution.

"I checked that out this past week, and I'm not sure that would be the optimum situation. We had to do about $100,000 of mold control a few years ago, and there is still moisture concerns in the basement," he said.

In January 2006 the city voted to approve the sale of the old AEP building to veteran banker Lynn Shipley for $800,000. The building, deemed surplus by the city, could someday be used as the headquarters of a new bank - TriSummit Bank - Shipley and seven others are working to open in the Tri-Cities.

Kingsport attorney Tom Dossett filed suit to stop the sale. Though Dossett lost in chancery court, he has since appealed the decision to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Last summer the city relocated its payment center from the AEP building - at a cost of nearly $6,500 - and since then the building has remained empty. Even so, the building would not be good for storage, according to Mayor Dennis Phillips.

"(The Tire Centers) building is close to property that we already own. We own the Holston Auto Supply Company building across the street. It fits in the overall (plan) if we do the higher education center. It has possibilities there," Phillips said. "The other thing is it has possibilities if we ever want to move engineering back to where we have everything together. And if we ever want to expand, this is something that I think we should look at."

City leaders and education officials have been working for months on a proposal to bring a higher education center to downtown Kingsport. Four sites have been selected, with two already being owned by the city - the Shelby Street parking lot and the Clinchfield Street parking lot.

Campbell said the Tire Centers building could tie into one of the proposed sites.

"It just happens to be very well located for one of the four sites," Campbell said. "If you chose that particular site, it could be a part of that facility, but there are still four or five sites still out there."

Phillips called the purchase an investment in property at today's dollars.

"If we find out five years from now that we need this property, if downtown goes like we project, this property will not be bought for what it could be bought for today," Phillips said. "I think if we find we don't have a use for it, then we sell it. I think we would be making a mistake if we don't buy a piece of property that is close to where everything seems to be happening."

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