KINGSPORT — Kingsport leaders took some behind-the-scenes actions last week with the old Quebecor World facility, all done in preparation for sending out requests to developers in what could be done with the property.
After more than 80 years in operation, the Quebecor book printing facility in downtown Kingsport closed its doors for the final time last year. Since then the Canada-based company attempted to market the facility, and after apparently finding no takers, chose to donate the property to Kingsport. Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said Kingsport inquired soon after the facility closed about a possible donation.
On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to accept the property and enter into a brownfield agreement with Quebecor and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Fleming said the sale is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.
A brownfield agreement is where the city, Quebecor and TDEC agree to the environmental issues that exist at the facility and which party would be responsible for these issues.
According to the agreement, Quebecor will continue to be responsible for the identified conditions at the facility, while the city will be responsible for any newly discovered environmental conditions or any conditions it causes or creates.
“There are several monitoring wells. Most of them have not registered any change in years. We don’t expect anything to come of those locations,” Fleming said. “There is one particular area, a very well-known, well-documented issue, and it’s over on the Clinchfield side.
“What (the agreement) is intended to do is reduce the risk for the purchaser and allows the city to enter a little more seamlessly into the situation.”
In addition to the BMA’s actions this week, the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission voted to recommend the property be rezoned from M-1 (light industrial) to B-2 (central business district).
The Planning Commission also voted to recommend the downtown redevelopment district be expanded to include the Quebecor property. An advantage of being in a district is property owners who wish to redevelop their property can apply to the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority for tax increment financing (TIF) funds to use on the project.
Both of these matters will have to go before the BMA for approval.
The Quebecor facility is approximately 1 million square feet, comprises 54 separate buildings, and sits on more than 20 acres bordered by West Center, Clinchfield, Sullivan and Roller streets.
The city contracted with the Kingsport architectural firm of Wright and Henderson to create a preliminary plan for the redevelopment of the property. The architects’ plan aims to preserve the history of the site and reclaim the original 1920s buildings.
The conceptual plan includes the restoration of the old water towers and brick chimney, a museum of industry, an outdoor courtyard, performing arts center, two farmers market areas, retail space, a city archives and exhibit building, and restaurants, all connected via an outdoor plaza.
Fleming said the city would soon be sending out requests for proposals to developers for the redevelopment of the property.
“We would hope they would go out as soon as possible,” he said.