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ETSU’s vision for performing arts center grows larger

Rex Barber • Apr 23, 2013 at 9:03 PM

Land where an East Tennessee State University fine and performing arts center could be built has been appraised at around $1.7 million, and now includes a bank building.

Lot 1, which has been the preferred location for the arts center, is a piece of land across West State of Franklin Road from the university and adjacent to Millennium Centre. ETSU administrators have been interested in buying this property for years. A purchase price of $1.1 million for this property was approved by the State Building Commission a few years ago.

But that was just for Lot 1, which is 3.59 vacant acres.

The appraisal, which was conducted Feb. 13 by Property Service Group Southeast, includes the adjacent property at 1328 West State of Franklin where a Bank of Tennessee Branch is located.

Together, both properties were estimated at just under $1.7 million, according to documents obtained through an open records request.

The vacant lot of 3.59 acres (Lot 1) was estimated at $990,000. The property with the bank building was appraised at $700,000.

The Bank of Tennessee purchased the 3.59 acres in 2012 in a foreclosure sale at $987,000.

This Lot 1 property was previously mortgaged to Carnegie Development Group, which had an agreement with Johnson City’s Public Building Authority to build a 60,000-square-foot office tower there. That project never materialized.

If a deal is reached and all the appropriate approvals are granted in Nashville and by the Tennessee Board of Regents, ETSU could begin construction of a fine arts center there by July 1, 2014. TBR governs ETSU.

ETSU president Brian Noland said in a recent interview that formal negotiations to purchase those properties would begin in the next few weeks.

“It’s our hope that that conversation goes well, because I think that’s the preferred site for the facility,” he said. “It would entail the full set of Nashville approvals for us to purchase the property.”

The property has expanded to include the bank building to allow more room to create a proper fine and performing arts center, Noland said.

“In order to fit the things that we need to fit, that just gives you a little bit more space,” he said. “It also gives you plaza space. It provides opportunity for ingress and egress, because we have the Niswonger Digital Media Center behind. Our goal would be to utilize that entire piece of property for the fine and performing arts center.”

Besides the Millennium Center meeting venue and the ETSU digital media building, a parking garage and a hotel are located nearby.

Noland announced in February a $3 million lead gift from Jim Martin, who has given millions of dollars to ETSU for the arts, to go toward a fundraising campaign for the fine and performing arts center. This campaign also includes fundraising for other initiatives related to the arts, including endowed chairs and scholarships.

In his proposed 2013-14 budget, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recommended approval for ETSU to use $1.5 million to begin planning for the arts center, which is projected to cost between $38 million and $40 million. ETSU will be required to fund 25 percent of that project.

With the governor’s budget now approved, ETSU will be able to use that $1.5 million beginning July 1. The hope is the $9.5 million would be raised by July 2014 and the state will provide the rest of the money to begin construction at that time.

“I’m confident that by July 1 of next year we will have everything in hand,” Noland said. “And that makes us unique. There’s not another institution in the Board of Regents system that is taking this aggressive of approach. Most institutions are beginning the fundraising after they have the capital funds in hand. It’s our goal to be able to demonstrate to the governor, to the General Assembly and to the board that by July 1 of next year we have all of our stuff in hand so we’re shovel ready.”

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