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Demolition phase begins on downtown apartment project

Madison Mathews • Oct 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM

A 26-unit luxury apartment complex set to transform the landscape of downtown Johnson City took its first step toward reality as demolition of two long-vacant buildings at the corner of South Roan Street and State of Franklin Road began Monday.

The intersection will be the home of Paxton Place, a $2 million residential/commercial project led by Main at Roan Partners LLC. The 27,000-square-foot, three-story building will feature two- and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 635 to 1,056 square feet. Rent will range between $800 to $1,000 per month, including all utilities.

The demolition of the two buildings at 405 and 407 South Roan represent another example of downtown revitalization led by private sector investors.

“These buildings have sat here for several years and they were not significant buildings. They were empty and we didn’t see any way to renovate what was there. There is a real need for downtown apartments, so we decided to demolish what’s here and put up something that’s much nicer but really in keeping with the rest of downtown Johnson City and be a real entrance to this corner,” company partner Rab Summers said.

Demolition is being completed by Taff & Frye and should be finished by the end of the week.

Rothe Architecture & Land Planning is the architect, and Universal Development & Construction will be the general contractor.

Construction is slated to take about a year to complete, and Summers said the luxury apartment project has already generated a lot of interest from potential tenants.

“We’ve had a lot of interest already in the units. People have heard about it and called. Of course, we’re a year away. We would like to think that we’d be having people living here this time next year,” he said.

The apartments are being named after company partner Tim Paxton Jones, who passed away in June after a lengthy bout with cancer. He managed the Johnson City Press for nearly a quarter century, and was instrumental in paving the way for many current developments happening in the downtown area.

Valda Jones, Tim’s wife, said her late husband held a strong passion for downtown Johnson City’s redevelopment and would be proud to see the Paxton Place project finally taking shape.

“He grew up and was born and raised in Johnson City and back when nobody was willing to put their money where their mouth was, he opened his wallet and invested in a number of buildings in downtown Johnson City,” she said.

Since her husband’s death, Valda has assumed Tim’s role as chief operating partner of the Urban Redevelopment Alliance, a leasing and sales agent for a number of downtown properties.

Those residential properties are full and Paxton Place will contribute to more development in and around the downtown area, Valda said.

“When we’ve got people living, eating, breathing, shopping (in downtown)...this becomes the heart of the city where it started 100 years ago,” she said.

Summers said he sees Paxton Place as another piece of the concentrated efforts that are contributing to downtown revitalization, following the city’s flood mitigation work and the pending arrival of Northeast State Community College and Tupelo Honey Cafe.

“I think downtown Johnson City right now is finally ready for something like this. Five years ago, especially 10 years ago, it would’ve never happened. Banks wouldn’t have lent down here and we wouldn’t have made the effort, but with the new restaurants coming in downtown Johnson City and everything’s coming down here, we think there’s a market here where there wasn’t before,” he said.

That’s the kind of market downtown businesses are banking on.

Elise Clair, general manager of The Main Street Pizza Company, said she was glad to see some of downtown’s empty buildings go in favor of something that will be put to better use.

With the apartments and planned retail space for a coffee shop, Clair thinks it will drive foot-traffic downtown, which is good for all businesses.

“We’re trying to draw people in for downtown and not to just to one specific place. It’s an easy way to market it and putting in the apartments is just going to add that many more people who are down here. It’s not just empty storefronts. People are living and working and dining here,” she said.

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