At times, the board, which oversees the operation of the Millennium Centre and was granted control over the adjacent land along West State of Franklin Road to fund the convention center, has negotiated to turn its final lot into a bank, a corporate coffee chain and a hotel, but a final handshake has yet to seal the deal.
Plaguing the land and demagnetizing most developers’ attraction to the site is its lack of vehicle access.
The acreage is sandwiched between Ruby Tuesday and Regions Bank with little hope of being granted curb cuts from State of Franklin.
But at Wednesday’s regular Public Building Authority meeting, board member and Development Committee Chair Jon Smith said a Knoxville developer has proposed a contract for the land.
“We definitely need to do our due diligence, but this is the first movement we’ve had on this property in years,” Smith said.
Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council, said there weren’t many details available in the early stage of pre-negotiations.
“He came up a week-and-a-half ago to spend time here and look at opportunities for the site,” Miller said. “Other than that, there’s not a lot as far as who he’s actually looking at bringing in to be a retail tenant there.”
Miller added that the unnamed developer was in talks with the neighboring restaurant to provide access to the site, a potential solution to the major sticking point.
The developer’s preliminary offer, $450,000, is less than the appraised value of the land and the lowest of the publicized proposals over the last three years, but Smith said the board should take it seriously.
“The true value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it,” he said.
City Attorney Jim Epps, legal counsel for the board, said he has yet to receive a contract proposal from the developer, which would signify the first stage of negotiations for the lot’s purchase.
If sold, the proceeds from the land would increase the Building Authority’s coffers and slightly extend the time before support is needed from Johnson City to fund the Millennium Centre’s continuing operations.
Most recently, the PBA discussed the possibility of East Tennessee State University using the lot as overflow parking for the proposed Fine and Performing Arts Center, intended to be built near the Millennium Centre, but talks with the institution have apparently been unfruitful.
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