Kingsport BMA makes Quebecor plant part of redevelopment district

Matthew Lane • Nov 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — While a multimillion-dollar tax break for Eastman Chemical Co. received much attention last week, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen did take action on a couple of other significant items, notably the old Quebecor property and an annexation in the Rock Springs community.

The BMA voted last week to rezone the Quebecor property to B-2 (central business) and to include the property in the downtown redevelopment district. City staff said these steps would help with the redevelopment of the property and were consistent with the plans for the future uses of the property.

The BMA approved the creation of a downtown redevelopment district in June 2005, containing approximately 55 city blocks and 600 business tenants, the public housing communities of Lee and Riverview, and the old Washington School. The district boundary stopped at Clinchfield Street, just beside the Quebecor building.

A redevelopment district can give property owners an edge by allowing them to apply to the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority for tax increment financing (TIF) funds to redevelop the property. TIF occurs when the KHRA takes the projected growth in property taxes on the project and uses that money to secure a loan from a bank. That loan is then granted to the property owner to help offset the cost of redevelopment.

Quebecor closed the doors on its Kingsport facility last year and in October agreed to give the 1-million-square-foot facility to the city. Kingsport has accepted the 20-acre property. However, the deal has not been finalized. Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said city officials met Monday morning to discuss the closing terms.

The city hopes to close on the property by the end of the month, but Kingsport is waiting on Quebecor to finish the deal, Fleming said.

Conceptual drawings exist for a redeveloped Quebecor site and call for 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.

City leaders also voted on second and final reading to approve the annexation of the south side of Area 3 in the Rock Springs community — 47 acres along Rock Springs Road. According to the annexation documents, 37 residents live in Area 3. Sewer installation is estimated to cost $108,000, while water line upgrades are estimated to cost $105,750.

This annexation is part of a group of annexations city planners have been working on over the past 18 months in the Rock Springs community. The BMA has now approved Areas 1, 2, 3 and a portion of 5. As the plan stands now, Area 8 will go before the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission in December. The proposed order in which the BMA will receive the remaining areas are as follows — Area 4 in December, Area 5 in January, Area 6 in February, Area 7 in March, and Area 8 in April.

In other business, the BMA voted to give the Downtown Kingsport Association its remaining yearly funding of $20,000. The BMA agreed in June to withhold half of the funds the city gives the DKA each year until a meeting was held between the organization and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce to discuss a possible merger.

Former Mayor Jeanette Blazier has been facilitating these discussions, and in a letter written to Mayor Dennis Phillips Blazier said the two groups have made great progress.

“While I can’t predict the eventual results, I can assure you that both organizations have spent considerable time and effort in evaluating a merger,” Blazier wrote. “Regardless of the eventual outcome and how long it may require to reach it, the task force has stated unanimously that the effort has been worthwhile and feels strongly that DKA receive its funding.”

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