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Brownfield redevelopment spurring a renaissance for Kingsport

Rick Wagner • Mar 17, 2007 at 1:33 AM

Besides producing economic benefits for Kingsport, the East Stone Commons project has also been good for the environment, says Assistant City Manager of Development Jeff Fleming. File photo.


KINGSPORT - Brownfield redevelopment is not just about old factory sites anymore.

"To me, if it's not a greenfield it's a brownfield," Jeff Fleming, Kingsport's assistant city manager of development, said Friday afternoon during a presentation on brownfields at the sixth annual East Tennessee Environmental Conference held at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center

A prime example, according to Fleming and Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority Deputy Executive Director CeeGee McCord, is the East Stone Commons redevelopment and the tax increment financing that helped make it possible.

Fleming emphasized that such redevelopments are never perfect and should take a holistic approach - balancing the interests of economics, environment and business profit.

Fleming said the redevelopment of brownfields - sometimes called grayfields when no remediation is involved - help the environment even when remediation of serious environmental hazards is not involved.

For instance, the East Stone Commons project undertaken by Roger Ball of Hancock County reclaimed structural steel for recycling, used some construction debris for in-fill for a nearby project, and reused part of the existing mall, an area that used to house Montgomery Ward.

In addition, the redevelopment broke up asphalt with a series of trees and grass areas and helped further develop the adjoining Greenbelt. And Ball sold the development, using the proceeds to buy an old bakery property across Eastman Road for the Reedy Creek Terrace development.

Ball also is tearing down the old Cox Oldsmobile building on Stone Drive for future development.

In tax increment financing (TIF), the difference between the property tax revenues generated before and after redevelopment - the increment - is used to help fund the redevelopment for 15 years, minus some operational and other fees KHRA administers.

"No one in these parts had ever heard of that voodoo stuff, but we were open-minded," Fleming quipped of TIF, which is commonly used in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis.

Since being applied to the East Stone Commons project, formerly the Kingsport Mall, TIF has been used elsewhere in Kingsport and in Bristol, Tenn. The increased sales tax collections help the cities and Sullivan County as well as their respective school systems.

McCord explained that out of an economic summit held at MeadowView in 1999 grew a redevelopment and TIF process for the city.

It formally started with formation of a Redevelopment Task Force in October 2000, followed by a 2001 study commissioned from the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Research Associates, which found the city had the capacity to generate $1.5 billion in annual sales tax but was generating only $650 million.

In February 2002, KHRA held public hearings, and in April city leaders made the Stonegate Plaza and the Green Acres/Crown Point/Southland shopping centers redevelopment districts, followed in May by adding the old Kingsport Mall and setting the TIF process in place.

A 55-block area of downtown was added in May 2005, and the 37-acre Borden Mill site was added in 2006.

Tools of redevelopment include TIF, eminent domain, relocation funding and land-use control, although McCord said so far negotiation has been used instead of eminent domain.

Fleming said ongoing or soon-to-start redevelopments in the city include the new YMCA; new Boys and Girls Club; Legion Pool renovations; Crown Point shopping center; Kingsport Pavilion; Reedy Creek Terrace; new owners redeveloping the Fort Henry Mall; downtown redevelopment including $7 million in property changing hands in the past year; proposed King's Port on the Holston near Netherland Inn; Holston Valley Medical Center's $100 million expansion and renovation; Indian Path Medical Center expansion and renovation; Holston Medical Group expansion; Sheridan Square; demolition of the old Holiday Inn and opening of a new Super 8 on Lynn Garden Drive; and demolition of the old Cox Olds on Stone Drive.

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