KINGSPORT - TriSummit Bank cleared another hurdle Monday afternoon in its plans to bring a bank headquarters to the old American Electric Power building in downtown Kingsport.
Bank officials went before the Kingsport Historic Zoning Commission Monday afternoon to request a Certificate of Appropriateness for the AEP building. Since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and lies within a historic district, the commission has to sign off on the proposed changes the bank wants to make to the property and the exterior of the building before construction begins.
Following an hour-long presentation and discussion on the proposed changes, commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the request. Commissioners Randy Cupp and Jim Henderson, who spoke favorably of the presentation, voted against the request because of a few unanswered concerns.
TriSummit Bank has proposed enclosing the open walkway along the side of the building and moving the windows to the arches. The commission denied a similar request from the Kingsport Public Library in the past when the library wanted to install a coffee shop. Cupp said he wanted more information about that vote before voting on TriSummit’s request.
Henderson, who complimented bank officials for being sensitive to the surrounding area, asked the most questions about the site plan, including questions about signage and green space.
“We understand and share the concerns for the building, but there will have to be certain changes to make it work in the 21st century,” said TriSummit Bank CEO Lynn Shipley.
According to the proposed site plan, TriSummit Bank plans to undertake a massive renovation and addition to the AEP building. The existing garage will be removed to make way for a 5,000-square-foot addition, bringing the total size of the building to roughly 20,000 square feet.
Shipley said the bank plans to salvage as much brick from the garage and wall as possible adding General Shale will be fabricating a brick as close in color to the original as it can.
The iron gates in front of the building will be restored and displayed to preserve the character of the property. A large elm tree at the front of the building will also be preserved, along with the bronze plate identifying the property as that of Kingsport Power.
The new wing, which will serve as the main entrance to the bank, will include an elevator and large restrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The wing’s exterior will feature archways to match the building’s exterior next to Glen Bruce Park. And an existing sidewalk next to Glen Bruce Park will be extended all the way to Shelby Street.
The bank’s main entrance will be accessible from both Sullivan and Shelby Street. A drive-through with three teller lanes and an ATM lane will be accessible from Shelby Street. The landscape will feature a circular theme in keeping with the Church Circle location.
The entire project is expected to cost $4.5 million to $5 million and take 12 months to complete.
“We’re going to move ahead with finalizing our plans, and we’ll begin demolition and construction as quickly as we can get permits issued and get this project on track,” Shipley said, adding the tentative date for opening is September 2008. “That’s a very general date at this point. It’s about a 12-month project, and we’ll fast-track it as much as we can.”
Shipley said the bank would make every effort to retain and enhance the features of the AEP building. However, when asked by HZC Chair Ann Morison about the building’s upstairs auditorium and whether it would be available for community events, Shipley said he was not in a position to commit to anything regarding the interior.
“We do not know the interior design, in terms of what the layout of offices will be,” Shipley said. “We will fully utilize the entire building, and the architectural features like the marble floors and moldings, we’re going to retain those.”
Shipley said the bank plans to restore and repair the old clocks found on the front and inside the building and keep the unique water fountain on the second floor.
“I plan to drink out of that water fountain every day,” he said.
TriSummit Bank struck a deal with city leaders in 2005 to buy the AEP building. But those plans were put on hold in December 2005 when local attorney Tom Dossett filed a lawsuit to block the sale of the building. Dossett claimed city leaders did not follow city code in disposing of the property, and that two meetings held among city leaders about the sale were in violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, also called the “Sunshine Law.”
In November 2006, Chancellor E.G. Moody dismissed the lawsuit, saying Dossett did not have standing to bring action against the city regarding the sale of the building.
Dossett is appealing the decision with the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The AEP building was constructed in 1932 and originally housed the Kingsport Power Co. It is located next to the Kingsport Public Library and Church Circle.