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Room being made for more downtown Johnson City apartments

Madison Mathews • Feb 26, 2013 at 9:22 PM

More residential space is coming in downtown Johnson City.

The former Tennessee National Bank building on the corner of East Main and Spring streets is being developed into a mixed-use retail and apartment complex, capitalizing on the growing demand for downtown residential areas.

“We’re absolutely betting on the demand for downtown (living space). ... I think there’s enough demand for downtown and demand will just grow for more services the nicer downtown becomes and they just build off each other. We’re definitely betting on the demand to continue,” co-developer Grant Summers said.

The project is being handled by Nugen Developers, a partnership between Summers and Seth Kincaid.

The momentum downtown has seen over the last year in revitalization efforts prompted the developers to jump on the chance to turn the building into a new development for the downtown area.

“We just thought that everything is on the rise. We’re excited about adding another rejuvenated, redeveloped property to downtown,” Summers said.

Local company Rainey Contracting, which is taking care of the renovation of the historic CC&O Railroad Depot for Tupelo Honey Cafe, will be leading the project.

The building was constructed during the early 1920s on the site of the former Jobe’s Opera House, which was destroyed in a fire. In the early 1930s, Tennessee National Bank and Unaka National Bank merged before the Jones-Vance Drug Co. moved to the location in the mid-1930s.

Throughout its history, the building has also been home to a restaurant and served as an office space for law firms, a local newspaper and insurance companies.

“It’s a great old architectural facade,” Summers said. “We will retain the old concrete facade and upgrade the windows and the appearance on the outside and things like that.”

The plan is to take the 9,000-square-foot building and transform the bottom floor into a commercial space for a retailer or restaurant. The second-floor mezzanine will either be left as is or be turned into a floor of apartments depending on what is done with the commercial space. The third floor office spaces will be converted into studio apartments.

“If we get a restaurant that wanted the whole open space downstairs then we would leave that as it is. If we go a different route, we can finish off that mezzanine floor and have three floors in the building,” Summers said.

Once construction is completed, the building will have either eight or 16 apartments.

With construction on the luxury apartment complex Paxton Place under way on the corner of South Roan Street and State of Franklin Road and most of the other downtown residential spaces, such as the Tipton Street development, occupied, Summers said there’s a definite need for more spaces, especially apartments that cater to a different market.

“They’re going to be smaller more like studio apartments, whereas both of those properties are bigger and at a little bit higher price point. These are going to be efficient and kind of urban designs more like studio lofts,” he said.

Summers said he hopes to the residential portion completed by fall. He and Kincaid are still talking with potential tenants for the commercial space.

Washington County Economic Development Council Director of Redevelopment Shannon Castillo said the new apartment project is another example of private investors spurring revitalization in the downtown area.

“We’re very pleased to see a lovely downtown building in a great location being renovated. It will bring residents and new business downtown, and like Tupelo Honey Cafe and Renasant Bank, it is an example of private investment choosing to renovate existing, empty buildings for uses that will help downtown Johnson City continue its strong pattern of growth and redevelopment,” she said.

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