As leaders of the Southside Neighborhood Organization, we are writing to express our concerns regarding the Mill Apartment project and how it will affect not only our historic Tree Streets neighborhood, but also our larger community.
We had three meetings about the project with the Chamber of Commerce and Evolve Development and received conflicting information about the project. We support commercial development along Walnut Street and hoped that the Chamber of Commerce and Evolve would develop the property as mixed-use residential and commercial as it is currently zoned.
The Chamber and Evolve are seeking to rezone the site of the mill in order to make it all residential. They are also seeking a zoning variance that would permit a parking lot along a sizable section of State of Franklin Road. This seems at odds with the city’s improvements there and the proposed public art project to further beautify the drive between downtown and East Tennessee State University.
Because of the foresight of progressive citizens and forward-thinking city officials, State of Franklin Road has a design overlay that ensures the aesthetics of any project that goes along that corridor. Likewise, in our neighborhood, we have the Tree Streets Historic Conservation District. But Walnut Street that lies between the two has been neglected. It is a patchwork of zoning — a mix of light industrial, some restaurants, nightclubs, vacant buildings, dilapidated warehouses and few neighborhood services.
We propose that the city conduct a corridor study along Walnut Street from University Parkway to Roan Street. The study will look at what is currently in place, sidewalk width, traffic flow, signage, aesthetics, property usage and drainage. This vital corridor connects ETSU and downtown, running parallel to State of Franklin. This could be the thriving, mixed-use area. Now is the time to create a blueprint for future development.
To our Regional Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and City Commission, we respectfully request you consider conducting a corridor study. Let us take the steps necessary for greater confidence in the development of our community’s integrity, economic growth and livability.
Submitted by SNO President Jodi Jones, Vice President Jeff Estes, Secretary Betty Ann Polaha, Archivist Lisa Orr, Treasurer Kathy Serago and Amber Floyd Lee, SNO’s representative to the Johnson City Housing and Community Development Advisory Board.