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Nathan Baker

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Apartments still planned for former mill property

March 15th, 2014 9:38 pm by Nathan Baker

Apartments still planned for former mill property

Representatives of Evolve Development said they still hope to convert the former Model Mill and Mize Farm & Garden Supply property into an apartment complex.

Representatives of a North Carolina company hoping to build a 216-unit multifamily apartment complex said Friday that the project will continue to move through Johnson City’s approval process over the next two weeks and the interested company could close on the property soon.

The unnamed project by Evolve Development is back on the City Commission’s March 20 agenda after a two-week delay to give the company’s principals time to draw up a development agreement with the city.

According to Evolve’s council, Tom McKee, under the new agreement, the five four-story buildings proposed for the land currently occupied by the former Model Mill and Mize Farm & Garden Supply will have 100 percent brick exteriors at the request of the commissioners.

If built, the complex will sit in an overlay district along West State of Franklin Road where new developments are required to have at least 70 percent of their buildings’ exteriors to be covered with brick or decorative stone.

McKee said after commissioners agreed to a project in January by Coal Yard Restoration, which plans to build a 60-unit student housing complex with an 80 percent brick exterior closer to ETSU, they felt the need for Evolve to confirm the apartments would have a specified amount of masonry work on the outside.

“They had to confer with their architects to determine what the cost was,” the attorney said. “They’re not going to promise something without knowing how it will affect the cost. They just took the time to do their due diligence.”

The second reading of Evolve’s request for a rezoning of the property narrowly passed the City Commission last month at a four-hour meeting that saw a heavy contingent of organized residents and business owners opposed to the complex.

The 392 new bedrooms on Walnut Street could increase traffic congestion and overtax the utility infrastructure in the neighborhood, the opposing voices said.

Many of those against the project said they felt misled by the company after the late reveal that the apartments could be leased by the room, a common trait of student housing.

An email sent Thursday by Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Mabrey said the proposal by Evolve was the best for the Chamber Foundation-owned property and would likely help spur further development along the corridor between the university and Johnson City’s downtown.

“The Chamber’s interest is in the community and in our members,” Mabrey said Friday. “We’re interested in doing what’s right with the project, and we’re comfortable that this is the right use of the land at this time.”

The Foundation bought the mill for $400,000 in 2008 with assistance from 10 Chamber-member banks, seeing an opportunity to help rehabilitate the century-old mill and move the Chamber’s offices there.

After catering to several interested developers that all eventually fell through, in 2011 the Chamber board decided to list the property for sale with TCI Group, Jerry Petzoldt Agency.

Several offers were received, but Mabrey said the most credible and financially sound proposal came in August from Evolve.

If the City Commission approves the third reading of the rezone, Evolve will still have to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on April 1 for approval of a variance allowing parking to be situated between the buildings and State of Franklin.

If all of those hurdles are cleared, Mabrey said it wouldn’t take long for the company to officially take ownership of the property and begin demolishing the existing structures.

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