By Jeff Keeling and Andrew Kenneson
Jay Goodson of Remax confirmed the contract had been signed late Tuesday afternoon. The mansion, built at what was then great expense for early 20th-century power broker Judge Thad Cox, has been vacant for several years since a combination medical clinic/venue closed there. The property was listed most recently at $1,330,000. Goodson did not disclose the agreed-upon terms.
“My understanding is that their intentions are to renovate and restore the Oaks Castle and also update — bring it into the 21st century — so that it’s a little more modern, while preserving its 1920s Italian artisan feel,” Goodson said of the prospective buyer. He said the buyer, whose identity he didn’t disclose, are excited about the purchase and plan a mixed use development at the 8,967-square-foot, eight-bedroom mansion that was last occupied as a residence in the 1990s.
“I think their plan is to be pretty public with it, so I imagine a lot of collaboration and partnership around town, whether it be with ETSU or the Johnson City municipality,” Goodson said. “I’m sure that there’ll be some reaching across and some partnerships going on.”
For the past year-plus, an arts advocacy group, Create Appalachia, has been striving to cobble together enough funding to buy and renovate the property — estimates have shown it needs significant work — and operate it as a public arts facility. While Goodson acknowledged there would likely be, “supporters and detractors, because I think everyone has a specific idea of what the use should be,” he said the outcome is a win for the community.
The Castle is designated by the city as a conservation district. Certain changes to the property, if they fall outside the guidelines set in that conservation document passed in 2000, would have to be approved by the city’s Historic Zoning Commission (HZC). The oversight includes some of the property around the mansion as well as the structure itself, and is designed to maintain the historic, stylistic integrity present when the building was constructed. Any new construction on certain parts of the property would fall under the guidelines and require examination by the HZC of roof lines, building shape and window placement.