Growth expected to continue in Kingsport throughout the new year

Rick Wagner • Dec 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Various projects now under way will continue into the new year in Kingsport, and some are expected to be completed in 2008, including the State Theater on Broad Street and Starbucks on Eastman Road. David Grace photos.


KINGSPORT — If 2007 was a year of overt growth for the greater Kingsport area, 2008 will be more a year of planting and planning for future growth.

In other words, 2008 for the most part will be a year of planting, not reaping — except for health care and education.

That’s according to Jeff Fleming, the Model City’s assistant city manager of development.

“It’s a continual phase of planning and implementation, planning and implementation and planning and implementation. We can continue to keep that momentum going,” Fleming said of various projects, including the city’s expected 2008 planning for the new Aquatics Center that may replace Legion Pool in years to come.

“While you may not see as much retail next year, you definitely will see health care,” Fleming said.

Other crucial planning to take place in 2008 is for the Kingsport Landing along the Holston River around Netherland Inn eastward to the Greenbelt.

“That project has the potential to make drastic changes of West Kingsport,” Fleming said.

In 2007, new retail in the city included the Kingsport Pavilion, a Merchants Holding Co. development on the old Mason-Dixon trucking site, anchored by Target and Kohl’s on East Stone Drive, and a new Lowe’s on West Stone Drive.

“This year we’ve had a lot of store openings and actual fruit has been borne from a lot of planning,” Fleming said in a recent interview about the year ahead. “Next year, with a few exceptions, is going to be a year to plant those seeds and do the planning so we can have new projects.”

Exceptions include the expected opening of the new Holston Medical Group six-story building at the Eastman Holston Valley Outpatient Center, the old Kings-Giant Plaza on Stone Drive.

The 250,000-square-foot building, to include some sort of food service and house a Regions Bank branch, will be the largest free-standing medical building of its kind in the nation not attached to a hospital or university, according to Dr. Jerry Miller, HMG founder and president.

Project Platinum, the $100 million renovation of Holston Valley Medical Center, will continue in 2008, including the new entrance off Gibson Mill Road.

Also, the city plans to get construction under way in 2008 on the John Adams Elementary School, in the Edinburgh development in Rock Springs. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport is slated to move into its new facility, and the YMCA is expected to pull its building permit for a new facility.

Possible, definite projects for 2008 and beyond

Properties ripe for redevelopment in 2008 include the old Stonegate Center near the interchange of Interstate 26 and Stone Drive, and Fleming said the city and economic developers also are working to bring development to the Interstates 81 and 26 interchange area known as the Crossings.

“We’ll continue to work with the owners of Kingsport Pavilion (on Stone Drive) as they decide how they want to kick off phase two of the project,” Fleming said. Among stores to open there in 2008 are Michael’s, and outparcels for restaurants and other retail remain.

As for the old Quebecor World building now owned by the city, Fleming said city officials will make a request for qualifications for interested developments and narrow submissions down to two or three developers who are to put in proposals for the one million-square-foot facility downtown as to “what they think the market will sustain.”

However, the city has a prospect for part of the property off Sullivan Street near Funtastics, and Fleming said the Farmer’s Market could relocate to another section of the property as early as 2008.

The city also will install a traffic signal at the intersection of Indian Trail and Stone Drive, which Fleming said should help jump start redevelopment of the old Ward’s Auto Center site, the last piece of the East Stone Commons puzzle yet to be put in place. That site is targeted for a sit-down restaurant, and similar efforts are under way to draw restaurants to the Pavilion.

Roger Ball, who developed East Stone Commons and sold it but is still involved in the Ward’s Auto Center redevelopment, is expected to have Reedy Creek Terrace on Eastman Road going in 2008 and also is redeveloping the old Cox Oldsmobile dealership on Stone Drive.

On the west end of town, Holrob out of Knoxville is developing Netherland Station across from Burger King and SunTrust Bank in Allandale. Fleming said it is supposed to have a restaurant and bank on outparcels, with a strip mall behind those.

Changes are coming to the Fort Henry Mall in 2008, starting with interior renovations and likely outparcel project construction, according to General Manager Kevin Harmon.

However, he said the major exterior renovations and an expansion of the main mall building will be in 2009.

At some point in 2008 or 2009, the name of the mall will change to Kingsport Town Center.

As for residential development, projects include Anchor Pointe in Cook’s Valley, a Sugarwood expansion on Fall Creek Road, Riverbend Centre and Skyland Falls near Fort Henry Drive’s Wal-Mart and the Villas at Netherland Lane.

Estepp looks for housing, retail, education in 2008

As for the Kingsport Economic Development Board, Chairman Larry Estepp said 2008 will mark a continued emphasis on residential, retail and educational development since the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership is focused on industrial development.

“In ‘07, we got out of the box a little bit looking more into residential and retail development,” Estepp said, pointing out the Tri-Cities Crossing or Crossroads area near the interchange of Interstates 26 and 81. “KEDB continues to work on retail outlets in the Crossroads area.”

In part to help spur downtown retail development and redevelopment, KEDB, an economic development arm of the city, will be the technical builder and owner of the new city-funded Allied Health Center, to be completed downtown in time to open in the fall of 2008. That will combine Northeast State Technical Community College nursing and other health degrees and classes at one location, as well as some from King College.

KEDB also will own the city-funded Higher Education Center, set to open downtown in the fall of 2009. That center is to be operated by Northeast State, which will offer two-year degrees there, as well as classes from the University of Tennessee, King College, Milligan College, Tusculum and likely Carson-Newman College and others.

Estepp said KEDB likely will make a second attempt to develop a housing development on the old Steadman Farm property it owns near Tri-Cities Regional Airport. Johnson City-based Thomas Construction Co. expressed interest in the project last year but he said the project was put on the back burner after a slight downturn in the housing market in the Tri-Cities, a downturn Estepp said now appears not to have affected the less-than $200,000 housing the Steadman Farm property is proposed to have.

“We have a developer who was interested in our property near the airport and that fell through,” Estepp said, adding that the delay might have been the best thing at the time. “That price range here still appears to be selling.”

KEDB also may take ownership of part of the old Quebecor World building and help oversee it.

Venable expects jobs creation announcement

Meanwhile, the head of the NETWORKS economic development group expects an existing industry will announce an expansion in the new year that will produce new jobs.

“In February, we could have an announcement,” NETWORKS Chief Executive Officer Richard Venable said of an existing business or industry looking to expand and create new jobs.

“We’ve been in negotiations with a client about 12 months.”

Partnership Park I, 105 acres near Tri-Cities Regional Airport, has water and sewer engineering done with plans to apply for water and sewer grants.

Work is under way for the 223-acre Partnership Park II, on the outskirts of Bristol, Tenn., near Vance Tank Road, to have an industrial access road, possibly off state Route 394, and a rail spur.

As for Partnership Park III, also known as Gateway Commerce Park, the 166 acres near the intersection of Interstates 26 and 81 is to have a FedEx ground distribution center completed in the late winter or early spring.

“We’ve got over 60 acres available for development, including airport property,” Venable said.

Existing buildings on the market are the old Cartamundi building in Northeast Tennessee Business Park, the old Traco building near I-27 and I-81, the almost 1-million-square-foot Raytheon building in Bristol, Tenn., owned by American Phoenix, the old Sam’s Wholesale Club at Exit 63 of I-81, a shell building in the Tri-County Industrial Park and a shell building owned by the Bristol Tennessee Electric System in the Bristol Industrial Park.

In addition, Venable said NETWORKS will continue to help market privately owned buildings.

Venable said the Strategic Planning Committee is reviewing NETWORK’s strategic plan and that the Executive Committee is formulating proposed scorecard goals.

NETWORKS exceeded its new jobs creation goal but fell a little short on its capital investment goal.

According to scorecard results for 2007, NETWORKS has been involved in projects that have created 753 new jobs and $36.2 million in capital investment, compared to goals of 600 new jobs and $45 million in capital investment.

“What you don’t see there (on the 2007 scorecard) is the Eastman announcement,” Venable said of Eastman Chemical Co.’s plans to invest $1.3 billion in redevelopment at its Kingsport operation.

He said NETWORKS, the city and the Kingsport Economic Development Board worked with Eastman on that project but that including it would have skewed the capital portion of the scorecard.

Eastman in mid-2007 announced it will invest more than $1.3 billion over five years to upgrade technology, infrastructure and production capabilities at the company’s Kingsport manufacturing facility.

Called “Project Reinvest,” the plan calls for the company to spend an average of $265 million annually and will potentially lay the groundwork for future capital investments.

The project will also initiate a partnership between Eastman and Northeast State Technical Community College to develop curricula and implement training programs for a new generation of mechanics, lab analysts and chemical operators.

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