The Lark Street Extension Project still is technically in its first phase, but some glaringly obvious dominoes must fall before the new commercial pathway becomes a reality.
Two two-lane roads are planned. The first two-lane road will run through the now-rundown Optimist Park and across the current animal shelter property on Sells Avenue. Once the animal shelter is able to relocate to its new location, Guy Wilson plans to construct Clinical Management Concepts just off the new road.
The owner of the coming 11,000-square-foot pharmaceutical distribution and compounding facility in Franklin Medical Park requested a new access road be built from West Market Street to North State of Franklin Road via Lark Street to facilitate truck traffic as the facility comes online.
In September, Johnson City commissioners approved the first phase of design on the project and awarded Littlejohn Engineering Associates about $14,000 to perform services, such as required environmental surveys and reports, environmental engineering documentation and impact assessments.
One month later, commissioners announced they had a buyer lined up for the Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County — one of several properties affected by the coming connection. Just seconds before a vote to approve the consent agenda — an agenda that included a proposal from Johnson City’s Brumit Co. to buy the 6.3-acre lot — the City Commission deferred further discussion.
Commissioners voted to wait until updated appraisals are available on the city-owned site and a possible alternative location at the old Traco manufacturing property on Silverdale Drive — a site Brumit would have to pay for.
“Based on the fact that this proposal has not been finalized to the point of discussion, we should wait until the next scheduled meeting to take this up,” City Manager Pete Peterson said at the time. “Based on my meeting with the Boys and Girls Club — they’ve asked that we get an appraisal. Both the club and Brumit have agreed.”
There was nothing further about the transaction on the Dec. 1 agenda, nor the Dec. 15 agenda, nor any since.
Robin Crumley, Boys and Girls Club chief professional officer, simply said “nothing” when asked early Monday what progress has been made regarding negotiations for an alternative site.
Peterson said Monday in an emailed response that Brumit’s proposal still is active and that the city is in the process of getting appraisals and reviewing them and discussing details with the company and Boys and Girls Club representatives. He also said “the discussions are ongoing.”
“We have not requested an extension, as there is not a specified start date for the road project,” he said. “The design process is moving ahead full speed, and plan development is not to a point where construction could start anytime soon. We are currently in the right-of-way phase of the design process. Since this is a state project, TDOT is involved in every step of the process, as they must make all final approvals. As has been expected all along, actual construction will probably not start before fall.”
A follow-up with Crumley revealed the city had contacted the organization shortly after his communication to the Johnson City Press.
“I just heard from our chief volunteer officer that the city is ready to re-establish talks,” she said. “They scheduled a meeting with our board of directors next Friday.”
The Boys and Girls Club site, at 2210 W. Market St., has been the organization’s home since 1969 and has, since the project’s inception, been considered a probable casualty. The club’s board of directors will determine whether the new site is appropriate, but the city will have the final say on whether it is equal or better than the current facility.
Forces also are at work to abandon the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter. The new road will cut through this property. But this location now appears to be a temporary stopping point, because the shelter cannot move to its new location until construction of the new animal shelter is complete. The property is purchased, but fundraising for construction has not yet begun in earnest.
Meanwhile, the extension also will cut through the middle of Optimist Park, a now-empty patch of land just west of the shelter. But because federal money was used to construct the park, replacement property must be found where recreational activities can continue if the park is to be closed. The city recently contacted the Tennessee Department of Conservation to see if part of the city-owned Keefauver farm can be used in this exchange.
Are the dominoes coming into view?
This first design phase will lead to construction of two new roadways. It also will lay the initial groundwork for a connection to the other side of West Market that will facilitate the infrastructure needed to develop the area and help open an economic door in and around 30 acres of city-owned land at the former National Guard Armory site.
Both roads will be located on city-owned property. Right-of-way for the roads will be cut out of existing tracts to construct the complete build-out. This will include the addition of through lanes and turning lanes to both Lark Street and Optimist Street. The remaining property will be subdivided as needed to make viable tracts for development of commercial property.
TDOT will fund the grading, paving and drainage on the project. The city will fund the curb, gutter, sidewalk and trail. It also is paying for the environmental clearance and documentation required by TDOT.