By Jeff Keeling
A grading permit looks to be the first domino that will lead to a new sporting goods store and better road access at north Johnson City shopping development Hamilton Place.
Hamilton Place developer K.D. Moore’s True Line Construction pulled a permit Aug. 21 for a $100,000 grading job at the development off North State of Franklin Road anchored by Buffalo Wild Wings and Courtyard By Marriott. The permit follows a late July submittal of plans to Johnson City’s planning department from Knoxville firm Michael Brady Inc., showing a 63,351-square-foot building and titled “Academy Sports – Hamilton Place Town Centre.”
The addition at the 7-year-old development provides justification for a short frontage road and “on-ramp” back to State of Franklin from the front of the complex, Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson said. Funds for the roughly quarter-million-dollar project are in this year’s budget, and work should begin soon. Two years ago, a developer-funded “off-ramp” from the limited access State of Franklin made getting into Hamilton Place easier, and the new road work will do the same for traffic leaving the complex. It will tie back in with State of Franklin at the Med Tech Parkway traffic light.
“I feel sure he’s got a good tenant lined up,” Peterson said. “With the development of this piece in here (Academy), that justifies going ahead and building the on ramp.”
Academy Sports + Outdoors, based in Katy, Texas, operates more than 175 stores in 13 states, and sells hunting, fishing and camping equipment, sports and leisure products, shoes and clothes. The News and Neighbor called and emailed the privately-held company’s corporate communications department seeking comment or confirmation but go no response.
Balancing traffic flow with commercial development
From Sunset Drive north to Interstate 26 and beyond to the Kingsport and Bristol highways, North State of Franklin was designed first and foremost “to move traffic,” Peterson said. It was built by the Tennessee Department of Transportation as a limited access highway, and Peterson said TDOT is intent on maintaining that purpose.
“With every curb cut, you’re going to slow down your ability and capacity to move traffic. That is a critical artery in getting traffic from the university, VA and Med Center north.”
On the other hand, as evidenced by the Johnson City Crossing, Lowe’s and other commercial development that preceded Hamilton Place’s 2007 groundbreaking, “that road’s a natural for commercial activity to develop on,” Peterson added.
The city’s long-term vision, he said, has always been to construct parallel access roads as commercial complexes developed and generated tax revenues sufficient to justify the expense. A three-quarter mile extension of Peoples Street from Greenline Road to Knob Creek Road that accompanied the development of Johnson City Crossing is one example, Marketplace Boulevard that leads to Lowe’s another.
Started in 2007 just before the recession crimped commercial and retail growth, Hamilton Place has struggled to achieve its expected potential, Peterson said.
“There was very high hopes that development would be high end, with lots of new retail and commercial activity there that wasn’t in the Tri-Cities,” Peterson said. Moore has continued to work hard to expand the development, Peterson said. The Courtyard opened in late 2009, and Buffalo Wild Wings in 2012.
The half-mile extension from the off-ramp’s terminus at Buffalo Wild Wings back onto State of Franklin at the other end of Hamilton Place could accelerate complete buildout there, Peterson said. It also will leave a gap of just half a mile between Med-Tech Parkway and Sunset Drive on the Hamilton Place side of State of Franklin, which could be tied together if further development occurs.
At the off-ramp end, less than one-tenth of a mile separates Hamilton Place Drive from Marketplace Boulevard and its access to Oakland Avenue and back to State of Franklin.
“This also starts opening up properties behind Hamilton Place and Marketplace Boulevard,” Peterson said. “This will really augment traffic flow when Knob Creek Road develops further.