Another piece of the downtown revitalization process got under way early this week when Johnson City’s E. Luke Green Co. began asbestos abatement and demolition of the city-owned Johnson City Furniture Store.
Though it may seem like a minor project, the result will mean the addition of 30-40 more downtown parking spaces and repairs to the decrepit Brush Creek culvert lying underground — a matter literally tied to the city’s long-range flood remediation plans.
Public Works Department Director Phil Pindzola said once the drainage system is fixed, it will be filled in. The city also plans to convert the fenced area directly behind the Johnson City Transit System site into additional parking space.
“So we’ll have city owned property that can be used — in the short term — for parking for Northeast State Community College and for overflow from downtown,” he said. “The opportunity also exists for economic development at these sites.”
City commissioners approved the purchase of 133 W. Main St. from CRC Breeze LLC for $75,000. Money from the city’s Storm Water Utility Fund was used for the purchase. The original creek connected with King Creek under the U-Haul site. In the ’70s the creek was diverted under the railroad tracks and now runs under Buffalo Street to where it discharges at the old Power Board site.
The building has been fenced off and the first steps are to manually separate it from the adjacent Louis Shoe Shop. A demolition team has started tearing down an attached section of the old building on its south side, and workers on Tuesday were on the roof, protected by breathing masks and helmets, removing asbestos.
Johnson City’s McCurry Environmental also was on site.
“Before they do the demolition, we go in and identify hazardous materials,” said a hard-hatted Linda McCurry ,who is an industrial hygiene technician. “We give the results to them which lists what materials are involved and where they are located. Whenever you get these very old buildings, some materials will need to go to specific landfills.”
McCurry Environmental also was used when the Free Service Tire buildings were demolished to make way for Founder’s Park and the new farmer’s market.
“We’ve also been collecting air samples, and we’ll be on site to make sure any hazards are identified,” she said.
The store, which has been at that spot at least back to the early 1920s, is located directly above the original Brush Creek. The purchase meshes with the city’s long-term storm water plan, though that particular location currently is not a high priority.
Under the store sits a culvert originally built in the 1930s. Pindzola said studies found significant structural issues at the site and that the city’s immediate concern was their liability, and that’s why the city will be upgrading that area with improvements to help water flow before it is converted to parking.
At one time, the owners were going to place the Blue Moon Dinner Theatre at the location but decided against it when the structural inefficiencies were discovered. The tax records value the property at $175,800, and the property was purchased by the previous owner in 2004 for $100,000.