By Collin Brooks
Summers Taylor Inc. will be closing on the Model Mill property by the end of the week, Grant Summers told the News & Neighbor on Monday.
A fire that engulfed the historic structure on Sept. 25 had put a hold on the closing while the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce worked out the insurance payment for the fire, which was a result of arson.
A preliminary timetable for the project will see interior and exterior cleaning, along with demolition take place immediately through the winter months, with Summers saying he hopes they will be able to start true construction in the wpring. If everything goes smoothly, Summers said the project could be completed by late 2018.
Even after the structure fire, Summers said that he never second guessed if his company should be pursuing the building.
“I didn’t have any second thoughts,” Summers said. “The night that (the fire) happened, what is running through your head is if the building is still structurally secure, if the insurance can pay for the clean up … it was always our hope to continue moving forward.”
On Nov. 28, the Washington County Commission approved a tax increment funding package that would not exceed $1.2 million with that money assisting on the redevelopment of the first phase of the project.
That phase includes the renovation of the 40,000 square feet of the Model Mill, which will become the headquarters for Summers Taylor Inc. Summers also said that they will have space for another large office tenant, as well as other retail and or restaurant ventures that would like to be a part of the revitalization of West Walnut Street.
With the Summers Taylor Inc. headquarters being the anchor tenant, Summers said that they want to make sure to make something that everyone will be proud of.
“I’m going to have to look at it every single day for at least the next 50 years, I hope, so I think it will be a broad range of things, from hopefully some high-end dining and retail to a smaller collection of spaces like downtown,” he said. “We are just really starting to dive into the master planning and visioning of it right now.”
The vacant land on State of Franklin frontage could see a high-end restaurants, while the frontage along West Walnut will be developed in a “downtown style”, according to Summers, with stores on the street front and parking located in the back.
“It takes a little bit of vision right now, but we think people are going to be jumping out of the woodworks to want to be a part of this,” Summer said. “So we are just trying to focus on getting it cleaned up and getting that process started.”
Summers said that his group hopes to keep the original architectural essence of the project true, including maintaining the silos and hopefully splitting them into a unique small space for tenants.
“I believe it is a very important part of our downtown and part of our history of Johnson City as a whole, and I just think it is a significant structure that I would hate to see it be lost,” Summers said. “Well before I even considered our involvement, I was passionate about saving it and the pieces fell together where we could have some involvement and use our headquarter relocation project to be an anchor for this project.”
Summers said that he and his company were appreciative of the public support that has also been encouraging for the company through the hurdles like dealing with the fire.
“The public support and response that we have gotten has been overwhelming positive and we really appreciate that,” Summers said. “It is a big risk and it does look pretty bad inside and out right now, so to have the encouragement of so many people, it definitely helps you push through things like the fire.”