KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will consider purchasing the Tri-City Linen and Uniform Service facility located in downtown Kingsport to be used in connection with the proposed higher education center.
Mayor Dennis Phillips said he is recommending the BMA approve the purchase of the building, which has been offered to the city by the owners. The sale price being proposed by the city is approximately $782,000.
The BMA is scheduled to discuss the matter during its meeting on Tuesday and vote on the funding source to pay for the building. The ordinance to purchase the property will not go to the BMA until the Sept. 18 meeting.
The Tri-City Linen building is located on Clay Street in downtown Kingsport beside the Kingsport Area Transit System and the Regional Center for Applied Technology. Phillips said the building would likely be used in connection with the higher education center or for parking spaces.
“It’s an available property that we’re going to propose to purchase,” Phillips said. “I think we’re fortunate in one way to be able to get the linen building offered to us. I’m not pleased the business has been sold.
“The timing is very good that they offered it to the city, and it would be much more difficult and expensive to purchase it if it were a going business.”
The Tri-City Linen building is located in the general vicinity of an overall project city leaders are calling an “academic village” in downtown Kingsport. The vision calls for a 42,000-square-foot allied health building built on the site of city-owned public parking at the corner of Clay and Clinchfield and a 50,000-square-foot higher education center built at the corner of Clay and Market on the site of the old Tire Center building — a building purchased by the city earlier this year for $165,000.
Construction on the $4 million allied health building is slated to begin in October with an opening date of fall 2008. City leaders are planning to have the $12 million higher education center open by the fall of 2009.
In addition to recommending a site last month, the Knoxville-based architectural firm of McCarty Holsaple McCarty also presented the BMA conceptual drawings, which show the two main facilities, three potential expansion buildings surrounding a closed Market Street and Clinchfield, along with an adjacent parking garage.
Phillips said five other properties in this general area would eventually be considered for purchase, probably in about a year. The properties are the Carriage House, the Paul Adams and Associates building, Jim’s Lawn Center, A-Hood Bonding and the Kingsport Fire Fighters Association building. The city has issued appraisals of most of these properties, but the figures were not released to the Times-News.
Phillips said these properties are not needed today, but they probably would be needed eventually.
“Naturally, (the property owners) have concerns when you start moving an existing business. You have to compensate people for more than their property. You have to be willing to move their business,” Phillips said. “While the property owners are in most cases willing, we have to be willing to hold them harmless for relocation for their business.”
Phillips and the rest of the BMA plan to meet at the site of the proposed higher education center prior to Tuesday’s meeting in order to educate members on which properties the city is discussing.
Jim Glenn, owner of Jim’s Lawn Center, has sold and repaired lawn mowers in downtown Kingsport for 25 years. Glenn said he supports the city in this endeavor but thinks they could have picked a better site.
“The way I feel is they’re going to put a lot of old-time businesses out of business here and force us to have to move,” Glenn said. “I think they would be better off if they used supermarket row. It’s got the acreage they need, and if (the academic village) grows ... I think it will cost the city as much or more than what they would purchase supermarket row for.”
Glenn said he plans on staying in the downtown area due to his customer base, and the location is convenient for Eastman employees and others from nearby plants.
“I’m willing to sell, but I’m not happy about it. I’m not going to leave until I’m forced to leave,” Glenn said.
Paul Adams, a business consultant who lives and works at his Market Street building, said he is in favor of the higher education center being built in downtown Kingsport. Adams said the city has not made an offer on his building, but he is willing to sell for a fair price.
“I think it’s a good site and falls in coordination with what they’re already doing with the higher education center,” Adams said. “I think it’s a good thing for downtown Kingsport and Kingsport itself to bring that sort of student body here.”
Terri Willis, owner of the Carriage House, said she too is supportive of the city’s project.
“It’s the most logical site for the higher education center,” Willis said. “It involves less businesses than anywhere else.”
Willis said the Carriage House has been in business for 33 years, 24 years in its current location, and the family plans to remain in the downtown area.