Renovation of former Quebecor site could start as early as July

Matthew Lane • May 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — A multimillion-dollar renovation project at the Quebecor property could begin as soon as July, with the work expected to transform a large portion of the old book printing facility.

In March, Mountain Region Family Medicine announced its plan to purchase about two-thirds of the property and convert it into a multi-use professional complex complete with physicians offices, medical ancillary support services, professional spaces, and eventually residential lofts.

Founded in 1994, Mountain Region includes 18 primary care physicians, three nurse practitioners, and more than 100 employees in seven locations — five in Kingsport, one in Gate City, and one in Nickelsville.

Last month, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the sale of 200,000 square feet at the facility — the back one-third and the middle one-third of the building — for $250,000. City Manager John Campbell said as Mountain Region nears completion of this phase of the project, they would pay Kingsport an additional $100,000 for two metal buildings located on the property.

Campbell said Mountain Region is also interested in another 100,000 square feet of the facility, on the Press Street side, but that this would be another phase of the project.

“Ideally, they need 300,000 square feet and they see some possibility of doing the whole thing,” Campbell said.

Under the terms of the sale, Mountain Region has agreed to invest a minimum of $9 million in the initial development of the project with construction to begin in 2009.

“They’re talking about starting work in July,” Campbell said. “They’re very eager to get in by July 2010. They want to move and consolidate their offices and are very eager to get moving.”

Phase one of the project will include the renovation of 115,000 to 117,000 square feet of space for physicians offices and ancillary support, such as diagnostics, radiology and imaging services. This phase of the project will begin at the corner of Clinchfield and Sullivan streets — where a conceptual drawing board now stands. Campbell said Mountain Region plans to take off the face of the building on two sides and erect a new face, yet maintain the structural integrity of the interior of the building.

Phase one will cost an estimated $12.7 million to $18.5 million, while Phase two (the renovation of another 72,000 square feet of space) will cost around $6.1 million. Phase three, which faces Press Street, calls for the renovation of another 100,000 square feet. It could include various multi-use spaces for professional offices and retail on the first two levels, and residential lofts on the third floor, with balconies overlooking Church Circle.

The old Quebecor property is classified as a Brownfield site — property once industrial that may be contaminated with low levels of hazardous waste or pollution.

“I don’t anticipate any major problems with that,” Campbell said. “We did a very extensive analysis before Kingsport received it and it’s minor in terms of what caused it to be a Brownfield site. There was a small leak 15 years ago that was remediated, and there’s no sign of migration from the general area of the original spill.”

Quebecor closed the doors on its Kingsport facility in 2006 and agreed to give the 1 million-square-foot facility to the city. Kingsport accepted the 20-acre property and has been working since then on how best to redevelop the facility. Campbell said in these economic times, Kingsport would be very fortunate for the Mountain Region project to come to fruition by next year.

“That would be a very quick turnaround for a property of this magnitude, this size, in this marketplace,” Campbell said.

“That shows a lot of confidence in what’s happening downtown. I think this will be a stimulant for that section of downtown and it helps reinforce what’s going on elsewhere in downtown.”

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