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City must weigh in on history vs. progress debate

Staff Report • Nov 13, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Three popular idioms come to mind with the news that two long-time landmarks on West Walnut Street — the General Mills plant and Mize Farm & Garden Center — may soon be gone to make room for a major residential development.“You can’t stop progress.”“You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”And of course, “All good things must end.”As Press staff writer Nathan Baker reported in Tuesday’s paper, a zoning variance request to construct apartments on the General Mills property has been postponed until December so that the potential developer, Evolve Development LLC, could add a fifth 40-unit apartment building on the adjoining Mize Farm property.Building the 200 apartments would require the developer to demolish the former flour mill and the garden store building to make the $20 million project a reality.In recent years, the General Mills property had become a neglected reminder of Johnson City’s past. The General Mills building was one of this city’s first landmarks. The Model Mill (as it was called when it was constructed in 1909) was there well before the development of the Tree Streets and years before railroad magnate George Carter donated land for what is today East Tennessee State University.The Johnson City/Washington County Chamber of Commerce purchased the mill property and had hoped to move its headquarters there someday. There was even talk of incorporating some of the old mill into those redevelopment plans. Chamber officials, however, soon learned that doing so would be extremely cost prohibitive.The thought of losing this historic building to progress is depressing to some. They argue we’ve already lost too much of this city’s history to the wrecking ball.Likewise, it’s disappointing to see Mize, which has been a retail mainstay in the downtown area for many decades, close its operations on Walnut Street.Still as we noted at the beginning of this editorial: “You can’t stop progress.”“You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”And, “All good things must end.”Indeed.

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