KINGSPORT — A 20-year plan to redevelop Kingsport’s riverfront area, from the Rotherwood Bridge to Industry Drive, has been given a new name: Kingsport Riverwalk.
For more than three years, city and community leaders have been working on this project. Milestones have included crafting an initial vision for the area, hiring a consulting firm to create a 20-year master plan, and hiring a part-time director for the project.
Over the years the project has had several name changes, starting with King’s Port on the Holston, then to Kingsport Landing and now to the Kingsport Riverwalk project.
The project’s committee held a meeting this week for members to meet the new director, receive an update on the project, and to hear the project’s new name.
“The first thing we need to do is sit down and come up with a name we can all rally around and support,” Mayor Dennis Phillips said prior to the new name being announced. “One name that we all can be satisfied with.”
Tom Parham, who has spearheaded the project, said it will now be known as the Kingsport Riverwalk.
The Kingsport Riverwalk project is a 20-year phased redevelopment plan for the riverfront area of town. City and community leaders envision the area being an arts, entertainment and heritage district with new restaurants, businesses, condos and parks.
The district includes Netherland Inn Road, Fort Robinson Drive, Riverport Road and Industry Drive with linkage to Weyerhaeuser and Cloud parks and downtown Kingsport.
Steps have already taken place to help spur development along the river. The Kingsport Riverwalk district has been rezoned to a new type of zoning designation — the Planned Village District — which allows for mixed use development including office space, residential and commercial space. The Kingsport Regional Planning Commission has recommended the district also be designated a redevelopment district, something that would allow tax increment financing.
Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, gave an overview of the master plan on Monday and spoke on where the project would likely begin.
Confluence Park — located just before Rotherwood Bridge — is the place to start, McCartt said, with the city envisioning this park containing public art and historical references. McCartt said the city plans to apply for some enhancement funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to help with the development of this park.
Moving east along the river, McCartt spoke of the Day Use Park, which would focus on water activities and picnic pavilions, the Netherland Inn Complex and Boatyard Park. The city would like to expand the Netherland Inn campus and make it more attractive and pedestrian friendly.
The consultants recommended moving Netherland Inn Road 30 feet toward the river to give the inn a “front yard,” McCartt said.
The other two major phases in the master plan include the expansion and improvement of Heritage Park and the Kingsport Landing Redevelopment District (the neighborhood at the corner of Netherland Inn Road and Industry Drive). The consultants envisioned the redevelopment district being home to small businesses and restaurants.
In November, Sarah Pope, with Town and Country Commercial Real Estate in Johnson City, was hired by the city to be the part-time overseer of the Kingsport Riverwalk project. Her main job will be to take the master plan from the drawing board and turn it into reality, she said.
Pope said her work thus far includes negotiating with some property owners within the district, working on a couple of property donations, meeting with U.S. Rep. David Davis, R-1st District, about the project, and visiting other riverfront projects in the south, including Chattanooga and Greenville, S.C.
Pope said Amerigas has a strong interest in relocating from its location on Netherland Inn Road, and she said there is talk of renaming Industry Drive. She also said a Web site is in the works to provide information about the project to the public.