By Jeff Keeling
A developer will expand its plans for a commercial development across from East Tennessee State University’s baseball stadium if its $350,000 proposal to purchase 1.38 acres from the City of Johnson City finalizes.
Coal Yard Restoration LLC was the only respondent to a city request for proposals for purchase of the former Atmos Energy property at the northwest corner of University Parkway and West State of Franklin Road. Proposals were reviewed Friday in the city’s purchasing office. The preliminary site plan envisions three restaurants and two retail outlets with a total of 16,000 square feet of space and about 120 parking spaces.
The land adjoins roughly 1.7 acres the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm purchased from ETSU in late 2011, which in turn borders the Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank. Coal Yard’s Eric Brinker had been planning a small apartment complex there, but changed course several months ago and told city leaders he believed a commercial development made more sense.
The narrow strip of land between State of Franklin and Brush Creek is largely in a floodplain. The RFP response – which asks for a change to B-3 zoning from an industrial classification – includes a pledge to fund stormwater detention upstream. Additionally, per the requirements, it notes the buildings will have exteriors to match Elizabethton Federal’s brick design.
Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said Brinker approached the city about selling the property earlier this year. The additional land will allow for about double the square footage of commercial space.
Pindzola said the proposal appeared to meet all requirements, and that he believed it could go before the city commission for approval as early as its Aug. 7 meeting.
“All indications are that they are wanting to move fairly quickly,” Pindzola said of Brinker’s plan to develop the area, which is within a short walk of University Edge apartments, the new Monarch student apartment complex, and Rose Park Condominiums in Millennium Park.
“What the city has to consider is, ‘do we want the property to be utilized in this manner, number one. Do we want to sell the property, number two, and number three would be, do we feel that the improvements on another piece of city property would be in the city’s best interest?’
The sale would leave a buffer of city-owned land along University Parkway.
Coal Yard Restoration’s proposal notes that its funding of a detention area and flood control measures upstream on Brush Creek – near the split of State of Franklin Road and West Walnut Street – would create a net improvement to the city’s downtown flood control efforts. That, it says, would allow more development to occur along the State of Franklin “showcase corridor … while responsibly controlling storm water.”