That was in January of 2008. Little has changed.
Because of various factors including the economic downtown and competition for capital dollars, seven years of the 20-year plan for Kingsport Riverwalk have passed, and not one parcel has been purchased, not one dollar designated for it.
The city is closing in on its hundredth birthday in 2017 with a centennial park planned for downtown. But plans to redevelop the area of the city’s roots remain in limbo. It’s time to dust them off, to give Kingsport Riverwalk its due.
The notion of a redeveloped riverfront has existed for years and seemed on the verge of fruition in 2007 when 120 residents attended the first of three public brainstorming sessions to develop the vision. The city hired a Chattanooga-based consulting firm to develop a 20-year, phased master plan calling for 345,400 square feet of mixed-use private development including restaurants, shops, offices, retail, condominiums and town homes.
The consultants recommend utility upgrades, streetscape improvements, landscaping, lighting and sidewalk improvements. A new zoning designation, the Planned Village District, allows for mixed use development including office space, residential and commercial space. Priority A calls for the creation of a Kingsport Landing Park along Reedy Creek, including a river walk, festival lawn, pavilions, interactive fountain and restrooms. The consultants suggest extending the Green belt through this park.
The plan included realignment of Netherland Inn Road and Park, moving 800 feet of roadway toward the river to create a more generous front yard for the inn, linking Kingsport Landing Park to Heritage Park and improvements to Boatyard and Heritage parks. The last phase would expand Cloud Park and make streetscape improvements to Industry Drive and Center Street.
The project included Confluence Park, located just before Rotherwood Bridge, containing public art and historical references. The city was to apply for enhancement funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to help with the development of the park. Moving east along the river, next was Day Use Park, which would focus on water activities and picnic pavilions, the Netherland Inn Complex and Boatyard Park.
Kingsport Landing is an expensive proposition, requiring major financial investment to revitalize the riverfront area. It will remain a multiyear effort with the plan proposing $9 million in public improvements and $23 million in private investments within the first five years and a total of $26.4 million in public funds and $57.3 million in private money within 15 years.
But the vision of an arts, entertainment and heritage district including new restaurants and condos makes long-term economic sense not only for tourists, but for city residents to enjoy. It’s past time to put to use the initial $225,000 the city paid to create the plan and to take Kingsport Landing off the backburner.