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City's purchase of Kelly's Foods site on track

March 20th, 2014 11:33 am by Gary B. Gray

City's purchase of Kelly's Foods site on track

Kelly's Foods site as seen from Founders Park with Brush Creek in foreground. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)

A deal that would allow Johnson City to buy Kelly’s Foods on Sevier Street and open up another section of Brush Creek identified years ago in the city’s original downtown flood mitigation master plan appears to be on track.

City Commissioners tonight will consider a sales agreement with Kelly’s Foods owner Deborah J. Arnold-Lyons to use $417,200 from the city’s storm water utility fund to buy the site. The money would be used to cover expenses, including the land purchase, demolition of buildings on five parcels at 101 Sevier St., material removal and floodplain enhancements.

The owner has agreed to the purchase amount, which was derived from an independent appraisal in 2012.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola has been negotiating with Dennis Church, owner of Church Brothers Family Fun Store, located at 917 W. Watauga Ave., to relocate on the former Kelly’s Foods site. Though these plans remain on the table, no formal agreement has been considered.

This would allow the city to access even more of Brush Creek and to tie together Founders Park with additional walkways and greenspace to Watauga Avenue and beyond. That path could begin at University Edge Apartments, or near East Tennessee State University’s Thomas Stadium, and run along the north side of West State of Franklin beside an open Brush Creek, which runs under the Kelly’s building nearest West State of Franklin.

“This particular action does not involve Church Brothers,” Pindzola said. “I have told Mr. Church that we would be getting back to him after approval of this acquisition. Regardless, we will be demolishing everything and opening up Brush Creek. We will be increasing the capacity of the creek at that point threefold.

“By eliminating the bottle-necking — the culvert under Kelly’s Foods is three times smaller than that of the one emptying into Founders Park — we hope to gain control of the water. Today the water backs up and overflows onto Sevier Street.”

Pindzola said Church has talked with the city about allowing a concrete pathway to be built that would run from the Kelly’s Foods site past his property to Watauga. Pindzola also said the city plans to eliminate parking spaces behind Kelly’s Foods to lower the area and increase water storage capacity. Though the creek will be opened up, it will not be getting any other amenities, such as the seawalls and other features at Founders Park.

The Kelly’s Foods deal includes eliminating Casteel’s Roofing & Sheet Metal, which is situated between Church Brothers and Kelly’s Foods. Brush Creek also runs under that building.

“It will more or less be an open stream, like you see behind the Millennium Centre,” he said.

Johnson City officials have been negotiating with Church to do a “land swap,” which includes a proposed 7,500-square-foot replacement building for Church Brothers that would be positioned in such a way that Brush Creek could be exposed and rehabilitated to provide improved water flow into the new park.

Church would be completely responsible for building the new structure. The city would demolish the two buildings at that site, and that’s where negotiations would begin.

Church has said he’s been planning for several years to double the size of his business at the current location, where he has a long stretch of frontage on West State of Franklin. Those plans have been submitted to the city.

He said last year he was open to the idea of moving the business on what is now the Kelly’s Foods property above Brush Creek.

Kelly’s Foods, which had operated at that location for 44 years, formerly supplied wholesale groceries and related products and provided services, such as food aid policies or programs and food planning, reserves management, shortage or surplus management and nutrition programs.

Church Brothers has operated at the same location for nearly three decades. The company sells and services Jacuzzi hot tubs and spas, pools and pool chemicals, billiard tables, furniture and games. The Church family also formerly operated Church Brothers Sand and Gravel at the same site, dating back to the 1950s. That business has relocated to South Roan Street.

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