(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Workers were still finishing last-minute punch lists Friday at the Urban Redevelopment Alliance’s Paxton Place, including installing the elevator to service the three-level building, but new residents were already hauling furniture up the stairwell.
“It’s busy today, that’s for sure,” URA General Manager and Principal Broker Brandy McKinney said, stepping past a wet paint sign and dodging two movers lugging a leather sofa. “This is our first weekend for our new residents to move in, so we’re trying to make sure everything is just right.”
There are between 275 and 300 residential units in downtown buildings, a mix of owner-occupied apartments and rentals.
The opening of the 26 apartments in Paxton Place brings URA’s total managed units to 79, making it the second-largest holder of downtown residential properties, behind only the John Sevier Center.
The partnership organization was founded in 2002 with the mission to bring new life to the city’s core by rehabilitating properties, removing blighted buildings and providing residential living.
Paxton Place is the namesake of Tim Paxton Jones, a partner and chief manager who died in June 2012 after a lengthy bout with cancer.
Jones’ wife, Valda, assumed her husband’s leadership role in the organization after his death and reaffirmed his dedication to redeveloping the city center.
The $2 million, three-story building takes the place of two long-vacant buildings at the corner of East State of Franklin Road and South Roan Street.
An 860-square-foot commercial space on the ground floor at the busy intersection has yet to be leased, and is awaiting a committed business before it’s finished, McKinney said.
Even with the new units, McKinney said downtown living space is still at a premium.
Seventeen of Paxton Place’s one- and two-bedroom apartments already have signed tenants, and the group’s established buildings stay close to 100 percent capacity.
The units include a variety of floor plans, some of which have impressively vaulted ceilings and private rooftop access. A public rooftop area can be accessed via a stairwell by all of the building’s residents.
Rents range from $750 to $1,195 per month and include utilities, Internet service and satellite television.
McKinney said the target demographic for Paxton’s residents, and all of the downtown buildings, is young professionals.
Recent trends urging the patronage of independent businesses and emphasizing strong, sustainable urban core communities has swept over younger Americans, and McKinney said URA is poised to capitalize on that mindset.
The signed tenants fall into an age range of 25 to 55, most of which are closer to the younger end.
Corey Vines, a new renter on the second floor, said he chose the downtown apartment to be nearer to Johnson City’s nightlife.
“I really wanted a downtown location, it’s more exciting and there are more things to do,” the 25-year-old said as movers hired by URA filed into the apartment with his furniture. “My friend Drew and I go out a lot, and here we’re really close to all the places downtown that we usually go.”
With URA’s success downtown, other developers are eyeing the potentially lucrative renter pool.
The top two floors of the Tennessee National Bank building, at the corner of East Main and Spring streets, are being converted into a dozen apartments by Nugen Developers, and on Cherry Street at South Roan, Todd Carter is nearing completion of two buildings housing 15 units.
Local economic development leaders hope residents will spur more retail and office activity, leading to a resurgence of the city’s downtown.