Investment data show local boom

Matthew Lane • Mar 5, 2007 at 11:21 AM

KINGSPORT - Kingsport reached a 13-year high last year in residential and commercial investment growth, jumping 24 percent over 2005, city officials announced Thursday.

Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said Kingsport's residential and commercial investment for 2006 reached $88.5 million, a $21.75 million increase above 2005.

"I think this is certainly the result of seeds that have been planted in prior years," Fleming said. "You constantly have to keep working and constantly have something in the hopper."

New commercial investment was reflected in 54 permits issued for retail, professional office, restaurants and medical offices, posting 14 more project starts than 2005 with a total estimated value of $26.38 million.

"Obviously the medical community is a major driver of our economy right now, and based on future trends I would suspect it would continue to be a very important segment of the Kingsport economy," Fleming said.

Commercial redevelopments in the Model City are also continuing - the Crown Point project has four initial permits covering an estimated $1.4 million in new construction, with several more expected in 2007. The largest single project in 2006 was a $10 million grading permit to prepare the way for the new Kingsport Pavilion commercial development and anchor tenant, Target.

"Last year was an excellent year for new construction," Fleming said. "We had strong construction growth throughout the year, with January, October and November of 2006 each in the $11 million-plus range for construction starts. And we are off to a strong start to 2007 as well."

January 2007 was an excellent month for new investment, with $14.69 million in construction starts across all categories, topping the best single month of last year, October 2006, when Kingsport logged $14.52 million in new construction.

"I don't see it as a blip. I don't see it as something we will necessarily sustain every single year. But there is a lot of pent-up demand in Kingsport. I think retailers are realizing that, and that will generate more retail activity in the near future," Fleming said. "In many ways we are right-sizing the community, providing the services that are justified and warranted for a community our size rather than having to drive to access them."

Construction started on 135 new single-family housing units last year, up 31 from 2005, for a total value of $21.2 million.

The average value of the 135 new homes started in 2006 was $157,631. The highest construction value for an individual home was $925,000, which when taken together, are indications of increased higher-end housing development in Kingsport, Fleming said.

"Housing is a new initiative of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen," Fleming said. "We really want to beef up that number in the future, and we believe there is a market for housing in Kingsport, but it is not currently being met for a variety of reasons."

In the category of additions, alterations and repairs, the Lofts at Washington School project was issued a permit covering $4.30 million in construction for senior housing, while Wal-Mart Supercenter on Fort Henry Drive undertook $1 million worth of interior renovations.

"Kingsport's positive 2006 growth numbers demonstrate that previous policies implemented by the BMA and staff have positioned the community well for new investment and growth," City Manager John Campbell said. "I believe the policies and projects the BMA are discussing currently can really continue this trend of smart, high-quality growth in 2007 and the years ahead."

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