Johnson City Press Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Columns Community Voices

Keep doing more to lure students, community downtown

July 22nd, 2013 10:00 am by Sydney Franklin

Did you know Johnson City was ranked 14th on Forbes’ 2012 list of Best Small Places for Business and Careers? I wouldn’t have guessed, but now that I think about it, why not?
Ignorant is probably the word I would use to describe myself, being an out-of-town 20-something who came way of Johnson City through college. For those of us here going to school full-time, we are usually too caught up in our studies to peek outside campus life and try to understand the actual region we live in. Weeks ago, I wrote a column detailing my thoughts, from a college student’s perspective, on downtown Johnson City. My goal was to allow you to see the buildings, its history and future through my eyes as a newbie.
Many of my artist friends would agree that our unique urbanscape downtown provides many great opportunities for photography, especially monochromatic shots. But taking pictures of century-old buildings isn’t enough. I see faded signs painted onto brick walls and wonder what they stood for long ago. I’ve taken it upon myself to try to become more familiar with our downtown’s history in the last year of my college career. While I don’t have much time, I want to try to better understand why those of you so invested love downtown so much.
So while some of us may be ignorant to the decades of work you have put into this city, I want to remind you, as well as folks my age, of the importance of appreciating your community. Ignorance is a complication that one must overcome in order to see things more clearly. And that takes time and commitment.
I previously wrote that some young people see downtown Johnson City as a bar scene or a way to fraternize. While this may be true for some people, the physical changes that are currently being made along those streets are causing us to ask questions. The truth is there has been construction and regrowth for decades now. It’s a beautiful thing, actually.
And as good things are happening, we must recognize that these developments do not come easily. It takes time, patience, cooperation and a whole lot of money to get projects of this caliber going. Yet there are those people who have invested their careers in downtown Johnson City through their businesses, restaurants, companies and ideas, having worked passionately to give us what we see today. And it can only get better.
I failed to mention last time some of the many more exciting updates coming to downtown. The city is building a new farmers market that might include room for bands, parties and other sales opportunities. Also, and possibly the main attraction of it all, the area otherwise known as Founder’s Park will help solve our flooding issue and give locals a place to relax and enjoy themselves with friends and family on nice days alongside the much anticipated revival of Brush Creek. City planners and the Johnson City Area Arts Council are currently unveiling ways to bring art and activities to the park. The strip of new sidewalk that runs from East Tennessee State University to the Tupelo Honey Cafe building on State of Franklin is designated to be a sculpture walk that will generate a natural flow of beauty from campus edge to downtown. (See today’s Tempo section.)
And did you know there are currently zero vacancies in downtown J.C. for residents? People want to live downtown, walk downtown and be a part of a downtown.
Maybe if I stepped off campus more often, I could experience what’s going on in this rich city. First Fridays, art galleries, great food and as always, alcohol, will continue to bring us downtown. We are still somewhat ignorant, simply because we are too busy with college to notice that while downtown Johnson City is undergoing big renovations, half of its beauty comes from its past. But we will never fully comprehend the past because some of us didn’t grow up here. Plus, we probably weren’t born yet either.
This is not my city. I’m from a far and distant land (not really, just five hours north), but I am invested in Johnson City only as long as my education will allow — which is four years. So downtowners, for the sake of the future students roaming through this mountain city on the weekends searching for community life, lure us in. We want to be a part of a thriving downtown. We see the changes happening and we can’t wait to experience what you have in store.

Sydney Franklin will be a senior at Milligan College this fall.

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