KINGSPORT — Kingsport native Sarah Pope has been hired by the city to oversee the Kingsport Landing project — a 20-year redevelopment project along the Riverfront area of town.
“It is truly an honor to be a part of such a historic endeavor,” Pope said. “This project has generated tremendous public support, and will undoubtedly contribute significantly to continued economic expansion and greater quality of life in the city of Kingsport. It is awesome to be a small part of moving this project forward.”
Pope’s responsibilities will be to assist city staff with the assembling of property and solicitation of private sector support for the Kingsport Landing project. The city has already talked to several property owners around Industry Drive and Netherland Inn Road about their property.
According to city officials, Pope has been hired on a six-month renewable contract and will be paid $4,200 a month. Her office will be located within the city’s development services department.
Pope has an extensive background in the arts, design and construction engineering technology, with degrees in all three areas, and has worked in both academia and the business world.
Pope works at Town and Country Commercial Real Estate in Johnson City and is the owner of Southern Blue Ridge China Co. Pope also served on the volunteer leadership team that spearheaded the creation of the Kingsport Landing project.
Pope is the sister of Kingsport native Anne Pope, the federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission — a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life.
Reached by phone on Thursday, Pope said she would not be leaving her position at Town and Country for the part-time consulting position with Kingsport. Pope said she has no commercial listings located within the Kingsport Landing district.
“I have no problem doing both jobs at once. I think it’s very nice to be able to have the knowledge and parlay into this other position,” Pope said, adding she has already started with her new position. “I’m trying to get myself organized, ... putting together a pretty detailed business plan, and it will be a fluid document. I’m going to take the master plan that has already been created and then initiate it into a reality.”
Development Services Manager Chris McCartt said the city considered a handful of people for the project manager position. Pope was ultimately hired by City Manager John Campbell.
“From the outset, this has been seen as a critical project that would only work with major private investment and a minimum of public dollars,” Campbell said. “There is just a ton of public excitement about this project, and we do need to ensure that someone can provide the follow-through to jump-start what has been seen as a 15- to 20-year project.”
The Kingsport Landing 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, 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.
Based on past experience, the project consultants, Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing & Watson, estimate that every dollar of public investment will return $2.55 in private investment.
“With a project director focused on this project, we are hopeful of earning an even greater return on public sector investments,” Campbell said.
That return would come in the form of an estimated 340,000 square feet of private development including restaurants, shops, offices, retail and new residential options generating an estimated $776,165 in new taxes annually, Campbell said.
Tom Parham, who has spearheaded the Kingsport Landing project, said the consultant report indicates a critical first step is to hire a project manager.
“We do have a tremendous need to communicate the plan to the community, businesses and elected leaders who can help us fund the project,” Parham said. “I agree that this is an excellent first step.”
Parham said it does not concern him Pope will not be working full time on the project.
“At this point the job has not developed into full time. It may as the project progresses,” Parham said. “The major function at this time is to acquire the properties in order to begin phase one. (Pope’s) skill set and background will be of value.”
The BMA recently approved rezoning property along the riverfront on Netherland Inn Road to a Planned Village District, which allows for mixed use development, including office space, residential and commercial space.
“This project is moving in the right direction, just as the rest of Kingsport is,” Mayor Dennis Phillips said. “I applaud the staff recommendation to hire Ms. Pope, and I believe this approach will help us greatly in mining other public and private investments to bring a critical project like Kingsport Landing out of the ground.”