KINGSPORT — City leaders moved forward Tuesday night in designating the Kingsport Riverwalk area of town a redevelopment district — a move that should help spur development along the Holston River.
Kingsport is working from a 20-year phased master plan to redevelop the city’s riverfront area, from the Rotherwood Bridge to Industry Drive. Recently renamed the Kingsport Riverwalk project, city and community leaders envision the area being an arts, entertainment and heritage district with new restaurants, businesses, condos and parks.
To make the area more attractive to developers, the city has been working to designate the area a redevelopment district, which would allow for tax increment financing. TIF occurs when the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority takes the projected growth in property taxes on the project and uses that money to secure a loan from a bank. That loan is then granted to the property owner to help offset the cost of redevelopment.
The Kingsport Riverwalk Redevelopment District consists of approximately 237 acres and stretches from Roller Street down Center Street to Netherland Inn Road to the confluence of the Holston River.
Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said the district would not be used for eminent domain, but rather the main reason would be for TIF.
“TIF provides a tool for future development, and with this in place, it will help bring this project along as we move forward,” McCartt said.
The BMA voted unanimously to approve the redevelopment district, but two aldermen voiced their concerns with the decision.
“I am uncomfortable with this for several reasons,” Alderman Ken Marsh said. “There’s no definition here of what we’re proposing TIF for down the road. I’m concerned TIF is becoming the standard giveaway program by city government.
“We’ve done four TIFs so far; three were giveaways. Reluctantly, I will support it at this point.”
KHRA officials confirm the authority has approved two TIF proposals — one for East Stone Commons and the other for Food City in the construction of its new grocery store at the Crown Point shopping center.
Alderman Pat Shull said he shared Marsh’s concern.
“We did commission a study that was well-performed to look at the possibilities of this area. I view this measure tonight as an endorsement of the board of this concept and the potential. I don’t view it as blanket authorization for TIF for whoever comes in to develop it,” Shull said.
“I don’t want us to project TIF as an evil thing to do,” Alderman Jantry Shupe said. “I think a lot of developments would not have taken place without it.”
Kingsport now has six redevelopment districts within its boundaries — East Stone Commons, Stonegate shopping center, Borden Mill property, Greenacres/Crown Point/Southland shopping centers, and the downtown area. The BMA recently added the Quebecor property to the downtown redevelopment district.