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May 22nd, 2007 12:00 am by Matthew Lane

This contributed illustration shows how the riverfront area might look after redevelopment.


KINGSPORT — Model City residents got their first glimpse Tuesday night of a 20-year plan for the redevelopment of the riverfront area of town — a plan calling for an expansion and creation of new parks and walking trails along the Holston River as well as areas designated for commercial and retail development.

Last year Kingsport employed Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing and Watson — a Chattanooga-based consulting firm — to create a 20-year phased master plan for the riverfront area of town by June. The city paid the firm $225,000 to create the plan.

City and community leaders dubbed the project King’s Port on the Holston and envisioned the area being an arts, entertainment and heritage district, including new restaurants and condos, a riverboat, the restoration of the old hospital, and the creation of an amphitheater on Long Island. The district includes Netherland Inn Road, Fort Robinson Drive, Riverport Road and Industry Drive with linkage to Weyerhaeuser and Cloud parks and downtown Kingsport.

The consultants have been working on the plan since January, holding two public meetings to discuss their ideas with the public and to receive feedback and suggestions on what the public would like to see take place along the river.

On Tuesday, the consultants held their final public meeting at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center to reveal their plan and hear any last-minute changes or improvements from the public.

About 120 people attended the meeting and looked over the maps showcasing the different features and ideas from the consultants.

The plan calls for the area to be called “Kingsport Landing” with some of the highlights including:

• Moving Netherland Inn Road 25 feet toward the river over an 800-foot stretch in front of Netherland Inn.

• Having residential development take place across the street from the Ridgefields Bridge.

• Creating a Celebration Walk that loops from Cloud Park to Long Island to Riverfront Park down along Netherland Inn Road.

• Installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Industry Drive and Netherland Inn Road.

The plan calls for Cloud Park to be expanded, streetscape improvements along Center Street to Industry Drive, the creation of Heritage Park near the swinging bridge, Point Park near the Rotherwood Bridge, and Ferry Park at the current Riverfront restrooms.

The consultants are suggesting a much more expanded area in and around Netherland Inn and the old boat yard, including commercial and residential development. The consultants also plan to work with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to develop their three acres of land on Long Island into an educational and historical setting.

Early in the process, city leaders called for the consultants to recommend a magnet or anchor project for the district. However, that idea was scrapped and Development Services Manager Chris McCartt said the consultants rather focused on the existing features of the area as well as implementing new features, such as parks and expanding the historical aspects of the district.

Tom Parham, who has been spearheading the project for years, said he was pleased and excited about the consultants’ work.

“We had certain objectives that we focus on … arts, entertainment, recreation and history. Our other goals were it needs to be affordable, reasonable and attainable, and those of us who have seen it, including city staff, feel very positive they’ve met those objectives,” Parham said. “The real test is how our citizens like it, and as we move forward I anticipate that developers will be knocking at the door wanting to start this project.”

City staff hope to present the plan to the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen beginning in June. At that point an implementation plan for the project will be revealed.

“(The implementation plan is) going to be part of the final plan, which will come in July. This is the plan subject to some changes based on tonight’s input. There will be a final plan and adjustment, and when that comes back there’ll be estimates and costs,” Parham said. “We’ll be able to apply for grants, both state and federal on the basis of arts, recreation and history. We have so many ways to approach this thing and get grants. But we need the plan approved before we start applying for those.”

Mayor Dennis Phillips said what he likes about the plan is it is something private developers can work well with.

“It includes a lot of housing — housing being condos, apartments and town houses. If you get the people there, then that will drive the retail part of it. We can find developers that want to come in and build the housing. What we need to do is make sure that there is available land and people are given the opportunity to do this on their own, that they’re not forced into anything,” Phillips said. “This is not a plan that requires $200 million up front. This is a plan you can develop in stages that is really workable and developers can make a profit. There’s a need for housing, and I really think this is an exciting thing.”

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