Bank demolition may lead to new Hands On! museum building in downtown Johnson City

Gary B. Gray • Mar 20, 2013 at 9:44 PM

City commissioners will consider a request tonight by the Public Works Department to demolish the former SunTrust building to help make way for a new Hands On! Regional Museum.

The city-owned building at 106 W. King St. has not been occupied for several years, and administrators with the museum have targeted this site as their future home.

“The building has become unsuitable for occupancy in its current condition,” said Phil Pindzola, Public Works director. “It would cost between $50,000 to $100,000 to bring it into code compliance. Secondly, the site is planned for the eventual home for the relocation of Hands On! It therefore doesn’t make economic sense at this time to repair the building.”

It would cost nearly $100,000 for the city to replace the roof and install HVAC units in the structure, he added.

In 2011, city and county development authorities announced a comprehensive plan of action for revitalization of downtown Johnson City that listed Hands On! as “a revitalization success story to build on” and a “key stakeholder” in future revitalization with the museum’s relocation being one part of that plan.

The former bank is between West King and West Millard streets southeast of the Johnson City Public Library.

The museum currently is located at 315 E. Main St.

Former Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Robert Reynolds has said East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland is interested in expanding the schools’ reach into to the downtown area. A few ideas have been tossed around, including using the building as the home of ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program, with the hopes of rekindling the famous “Johnson City Sessions” through weekly performances.

Commissioners also will discuss and perhaps take action on initial steps to begin the Johnson City Rails-to-Trails Project.

Durham, N.C.-based Alta/Greenways has delivered a master plan for East Tennessee’s first-ever rails-to-trails” project, which will serve as a guide for the successful completion of a 10-mile pedestrian-friendly path from Johnson City to Elizabethton.

Guidance of the estimated $5.2 million project now is in the hands of the City Commission. Johnson City will take possession of the property on June 27, but the trail likely will take years to come to fruition.

Glenn Berry, Johnson City Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization coordinator, is serving as Johnson City’s point person on the project.

“I think the first few steps will be the city looking at this in their budgeting process,” said Glenn Berry, Johnson City Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization coordinator, who is serving as the city’s point person on the project. “There has been no funding identified yet, but I think they will be looking at the bridges first — they almost have to. I will say I see a concerted effort by both cities to make this happen.”

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