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New farmer’s market possibility for city

Gary B. Gray • May 17, 2012 at 10:05 PM

A new farmer’s market is being considered that would tie in to Founders Park and expand public space that could be used for downtown events and other uses.

The City Commission unanimously approved a $9,500 change order in its agreement with Knoxville’s Lamar Dunn & Associates to study the feasibility of constructing a farmer’s market on land bounded by Wilson Avenue, Commerce and Main streets and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks.

This area is now being used primarily as public parking. The firm, along with its design partner Benefield-Richters, who have designed the coming Founders Park, will investigate the site to assess its potential as an area of the park’s expansion that would include a partially covered space for a farmer’s market and rest rooms.

Should the city decide to go forward with the plan, some parking spaces could be lost. The firm plans on meeting with city staff to review sketches as design work progresses. A conceptual design is forthcoming.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the conceptual design will include an analysis of on-street parking alternatives to minimize parking loss if the project moves forward.

“The city and the Economic Development Council both are interested in creating a farmer’s market with about 60 stalls,” he said. “We would have a net loss of 14 spaces in order to benefit the park renovations for downtown events. We want it to work together and have it function as one.”

No funding source has been identified, and the plans are only preliminary.

An abandoned building formerly owned by Free Service Tire’s Lewis Wexler sits on this spot. It is set for demolition within a month, and Pindzola has talked about utilizing this space as an extension of Founders Park, which runs from Sevier to Wilson streets. This area has been demolished and is being cleared away for the $4.5 million Founders Park project.

Construction is estimated to cost roughly $3 million and begin in July. Acquisition and design costs total an additional $1.5 million.

The park is a piece of Johnson City’s long-term flood remediation plan which will open up Brush Creek and serve as a multi-functional piece of city owned land meant to both help flooding problems and give citizens and visitors a pleasing place to walk or just take a break.

Commissioners also unanimously approved an architectural services agreement with Johnson City’s Beeson Lusk & Street for an eight-classroom addition at Indian Trail Middle School at a cost of $77,000.

The firm’s original proposal was to provide services from the schematic design phase through construction of the classroom additions and a cafeteria expansion. After a long discussion on the possibility of building 12 or 16 new classrooms, commissioners agreed to go with the original eight and perhaps making additions in the future.

The estimated total cost for both the eight classrooms and cafeteria expansion had been placed at about $2 million. Tony Street will be returning with defined plans, and a cost for the classrooms only has not been determined. The city would bear the cost exclusively by issuing bonds.

Finally, commissioners approved the signing of a contract that would keep municipalities from annexing the Tri-Cities Regional Airport when its guiding body transitions from a commission to an 12-member authority.

Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., Bristol, Va., and Washington and Sullivan counties all are co-owners of the airport, and they are likely to sign the contract.

State law protects the airport from annexation by requiring that each entity must agree if that were to be considered. But it is applicable only to the Tri-Cities Airport Commission. The new contract would shift that policy to the airport authority and be a quicker solution than having the annexation laws changed in the General Assembly.

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