Workers demolish an old barn to make way for the Riverbend Centre project on Fort Henry Drive. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — Imagine catching fish from the Holston River from your own balcony.
Or maybe you’d prefer panoramic views of Bays Mountain and the Model City skyline from a restaurant atop a seven-story building?
You could arrive and depart in a helicopter that landed on a helipad.
Those are among the visions that Gary and Anne Alexander and Jerry Smith have for their Riverbend Centre development on Fort Henry Drive, to each side and the back of Wal-Mart at 3200 Fort Henry Drive.
The 108-acre development is mostly on the old Bradley farm and the former Bradley Bros. Construction headquarters, which temporarily is serving as Riverbend headquarters until it’s torn down to make way for the development.
“There is no question that our economic conditions in Kingsport are very good,” Gary Alexander said. “We feel very comfortable with the Kingsport market. We feel extremely confident in it. There is a feeling in the air in Kingsport that everything is up, everything is moving upward.”
He and Smith declined to name specific retailers and restaurants that might be part of the development, nor have they placed a final price tag on the development that Alexander said could be in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Mayor Dennis Phillips, who along with City Manager John Campbell and Assistant City Manager for Development Jeff Fleming, toured the site last summer, said he believes the vision will become reality.
“I commend Gary and Jerry for their aggressiveness in making this happen. It is a new concept for Kingsport,” Phillips said.
“It’s certainly a development for everyone in Kingsport to be proud of,” Phillips said. “A development on the river bank there really has some potential.”
Alexander said part of the Riverbend plans — probably the first part to see substantial completion — is for 100 “European condominiums,” also called patio homes, to be built in the area roughly between Wal-Mart and west to the Holston River.
The foundation for the first house recently was laid out, with work already under way on the first phase and the major construction on the condominiums to begin in 2008.
“Most of the projects will be under way in 2008,” Alexander said. “Some of the projects, including parts of that residential, will be completed in 2008.”
Some 40 of the 100 units already are reserved, and Alexander said they’re going so well that soon reservations will end and potential buyers will be asked to buy the property rather than reserve it. The reservation fee paid on the 40 units was $10,000 each, he said.
He said four different floor plans ranging from 1,700 to 2,300 square feet will be offered, similar to what are in the Skyland Falls development. The 70-unit Skyland development on 70 acres is all but complete. Both Skyland and the planned Riverbend are gated communities.
“We are building as fast as we can now,” Alexander said. Prices of the first residential units at Riverbend will be comparable to Skyland, where he said units run from about $199,000 to $239,000.
“The first ones (at Riverbend) will be very much like those,” Alexander said.
On the north side of Wal-Mart, 12 to 15 acres will be the site of manmade lakes or ponds, and further north will be parking and retail, restaurants and speciality shops. Construction should start in 2008.
Depending on demand, an additional 200 to 300 condos are to be built on “stilts” over the river’s edge farther west in the development, allowing for deck fishing.
“The concept is to allow people to fish in the river directly from the balconies,” Alexander said.
On the south side of the development, atop a hill from which Bays Mountain, Interstate 26, Eastman Chemical Co. and the Fort Patrick Henry bridge are visible, will be a six- to seven-story hotel or condominiums with an upscale restaurant on the top floor, Alexander said.
Phillips said he believes the plans for a five-star restaurant would benefit the city. Fleming pointed out that the development still must go through the planning and zoning process.
Alexander said he could not say what restaurants might locate there, but he said a helicopter pad also is planned for that area.
Another 12 acres, between the multi-story building east to Fort Henry Drive, is an outparcel another developer plans to use for retail, Alexander said.
“Developers and builders are really beginning to look favorably at Kingsport,” Phillips said, mentioning the recent retail developments, including Kingsport Pavilion and various residential projects.
“I believe we have a lot of momentum and they (the Alexanders and Smith) can pull this off,” he said.
All this development is going on land that was either woodland or farmland that Alexander and Smith bought over the past two years.
“This land was not available (as a whole) for sale for a long, long time,” Alexander said.
The Alexanders and Smith bought the farm from Fred and George Bradley, as well as other properties from Wal-Mart, Carl Kirkpatrick, Sara King, Richard Fulton and others. “This has been in the works for two years.”
To make way for the development, the old Bradley home place dating back to circa 1870 was torn down, but usable lumber from it was donated to the Exchange Place.
Likewise, a barn built with hand-hewn timbers held together by pegs was torn down recently, as was a small barn, but usable lumber was salvaged.
However, the natural amenities, especially on the banks of the Holston, will remain.
Along the river a picnic park and sand beach will be added, as well as a gazebo and fishing pier and rock to stop erosion on the development or south side of the river.
But the rocky bluffs on the north side of the river, owned by Eastman Chemical Co., will remain as a wildlife preserve. CSX train tracks run atop the bluff.
For more information on Riverbend Centre, go to www.riverbendcentre.net, call (423) 279-0200 or e-mail email@example.com.