By Gary Gray
Increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic along the popular Tweetsie Trail will soon be serviced by a new bicycle store that also will include recreational goods, public bathrooms and parking.
Johnson City commissioners last week approved a first reading to rezone just under an acre of land owned by Bryan Winston at 701 East Maple St. from medium density residential to supporting central business for what will serve as sort of a hitching post near Alabama Street.
A concept plan for the new business depicts the “Tweetsie Trail Outpost,” at which tables and chairs are shown in front of the building, as well as parked bicycles and cars.
The property, which currently is in disrepair, once supported a business that lost its legal zoning privileges due to deterioration of the structure. The building has dilapidated to an extent that over 50 percent of its total value must be replaced.
The existing building was constructed in 1922. With the increase in activity, commissioners and city staff agree the location could once again be utilized as a viable business while not putting a strain on the adjacent residential neighborhood.
Watson has agreed to provide buffering and a privacy fence. He also is working with the city on finalizing an agreement to maintain public restrooms at the location for Tweetsie Trail users. Today, there is only one portable restroom that services the trail’s North Trailhead — an area less than 1 mile from downtown Johnson City.
Commissioners also approved a change order with BurWil Construction that earmarked about $297,000 for additional improvements at Freedom Hall Civic Center.
Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said about $12 million has been spent on various improvements at Freedom Hall, and about $600,000 was set aside in the contract with the company for such additions. The change bumps the original contract between the city and BurWil from about $3.3 million to roughly $3.5 million.
The money will be used to further renovate the four main concession stands, refurbish the outer concourse and arena floors with an epoxy flooring and professionally painting and restriping the Freedom Hall pool.
“The project was initiated about two years ago,” Stahl said. “We now have a new HVAC system, new and renovated restrooms, an elevator system, replacement of more than 5,600 seats and a complete lighting replacement. We left that $600,000 there on purpose, and some of that was used to resurface one of the parking lots and renovate the pool.”
Construction manager Tommy Burleson told commissioners the additions would take about 12 weeks to complete.
Commissioners also approved a memorandum of understanding between the city, which helps administer the Johnson City/Washington County Family Justice Center, and the First Judicial Court Clinic.
The center, which celebrates one year of service this month, serves as a one-stop location for coordinated, comprehensive domestic and sexual violence services. The court will serve as a support system and provide representatives from local agencies to aid victims.
“What we see so often is children who need to have contact with parents, and the partnership will allow them to do this in a safe fashion,” said Johnson City Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Greene.
Johnson City Commissioners Joe Wise, Jenny Brock and Ralph Van Brocklin were on hand for the meeting while Johnson City City Manager Pete Peterson, Johnson City Mayor David Tomita and Johnson City Commissioner Todd Fowler were absent. The three city officials were with a group from ETSU meeting with investors in Taiwan and China. The trip is in hopes of gaining enough funds to construct a new $50 million to $60 million sports science research center. The new facility could be located on the 30 acres of city owned land adjacent to Innovation Park on West Market Street, and the acreage could be a gift in a potential agreement, contingent on university approval.