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Kingsport funds needs assessment for apartment units downtown

November 8th, 2012 7:49 pm by Sharon Hayes

KINGSPORT — City leaders are realizing they need documented proof to show builders that Kingsport lacks upscale apartments.

The Kingsport Economic Development Board voted this week to spend up to $10,000 for an assessment to determine the need for apartment units in the city.

The board approved the funding after Mayor Dennis Phillips said he had spoken with a developer from Hilton Head, S.C., who indicated he would build apartments here if the city had a needs assessment in hand.

“We think it needs apartments, but our good word is not going to be good enough,” Phillips said.

City leaders are hoping to entice developers to build apartments along the so-called Supermarket Row on Sullivan Street. About seven acres of property there was acquired by KEDB in October for $1.785 million. The property stretches from a vacant building (formerly the Sullivan Center rehabilitation facility) to Clinchfield Street, and includes several businesses, including Compton’s Flooring, the City Lock Shop, and IGA grocery store.

City Manager John Campbell said Compton’s Flooring has already moved its retail center from the site, and city officials have met with two vice presidents from Houchens Industries, parent company of IGA stores in the Tri-Cities.

“They were very open. They don’t have emotional ties to the property,” said Campbell, adding the grocery store chain plans to decide in the next six months on the future of its locations in Kingsport.

IGA currently has 3 years left on its lease at the Sullivan Street location, with two five-year options. If a developer wants the entire block for apartment units, the city could either buy out IGA’s lease or negotiate to relocate the store.

Campbell pointed out that every developer he’s talked with has asked if the city has conducted a needs assessment regarding apartment housing.

“And I really do think it would expedite getting something done on that property,” Phillips added.

In addition to approving allocation of up to $10,000 for the needs assessment, the KEDB agreed to grant two easements to the city on the Supermarket Row property, related to the widening of Sullivan Street.

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