This basin, near U-Haul Moving & Storage of Downtown at 112 Commerce St., is slated for use in retaining stormwater. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
Johnson City has a plan and the money to jump on a $400,000 stormwater project at the downtown U-Haul site.
Unfortunately for the city, it’s a hurry-up-and-wait situation, since nary a pebble can be legally touched until the company relocates the business to the former Lowe’s and Fun Expedition site off North Roan Street.
U-Haul International Director of Media and Public Relations Joanne Fried said the company would close on the property this week and move its operations from 114 King St. as soon as is physically possible.
“We haven’t heard a thing from them, but the project is funded,” said Public Works Director Phil Pindzola. “We’re just waiting for them to get out. We’re good to go.”
The U-Haul basin, which in its conceptual stages was identified as the Event Commons, is part of city’s roughly $30 million, long-range flood mitigation plan. Basically, the goal is to extend the McClure Street basin to the U-Haul property, where stormwater can accumulate and be slowly released back into King Creek.
“The U-Haul property will essentially be used for water detention,” Pindzola said. “That’s going to be our main focus. It will be green, but I’ve indicated to city commissioners, don’t just dig a hole — add amenities.”
Just what those extras might be have not yet come into play.
Pindzola said the new basin will increase the capacity of the McClure Street basin four fold. The project includes the reworking of sections of McClure and Commerce streets, which will be configured to allow water to flow into the basin. New sidewalks with an increased width also will be built from the railroad tracks to Commerce.
The $400,000 estimated cost includes demolition ($100,000), construction of the basin ($100,000) and street renovations ($200,000).
The work will be done by the Public Works Department, as will another project expected to begin soon. The city acquired the old furniture store property on West Main Street some time ago and the building has since been demolished. A now-dry culvert runs under the property, as well as a section under Main Street and a fenced lot next to Johnson City Transit. It will be renovated and used to direct water into the new basin.
“We will be installing 48-inch pipe there, and when it is covered back up we will create a total of 30 new parking spaces between the old furniture store property and the lot,” Pindzola said. “There also will be another 30 parking spaces created when we do the U-Haul project. We’ve got the work scheduled and we’ve told the City Commission what we’re going to do.”
The city’s $910,000 offer on the property began dropping April 1 by $10,000 for each month U-Haul fails to vacate the downtown property. Under the agreement, U-Haul must be gone by Dec. 31, and the city could initiate eviction proceedings, but Fried has said she expects the company to have relocated well before that time.
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