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Could Johnson City's farmers market finally be on track for a new home?

August 20th, 2014 8:51 am by Gary B. Gray

Could Johnson City's farmers market finally be on track for a new home?

Construction estimates for the new farmers market on Wilson Avenue just north of Founders Park have ranged from $1.5 million to $2.1 million. (Gary B. Gray/Johnson City Press)

Bristol, Va.-based Trademark General Contractors is, for now, the favored candidate to build Johnson City’s new farmers market on a plot of land between Founders Park and downtown.

Cost estimates and plans from various companies were due Aug. 14, and Trademark is the apparent low bidder, said Thomas Weems, the Johnson City architect who designed the facility.

Consideration of the bid is not on the City Commission’s Thursday agenda.

“The numbers haven’t been verified,” Weems said Tuesday. “There are a lot of things that could be taken out (of the proposal), but that’s yet to be determined. I’ve been asked to gather additional information.”

Construction estimates for the new farmers market on Wilson Avenue just north of the park have ranged from $1.5 million to $2.1 million. The JCDA plans to take the lead on the project with $1 million available through tax increment financing, and the city had budgeted $350,000 for site preparation.

The new market is part of a long-term downtown revitalization strategy first unveiled in May 2012 by the Washington County Economic Development Council. In September 2012, the Johnson City Development Authority unanimously approved a preliminary design.

In early August 2013, city commissioners approved the location. And it now appears that about one year following that decision, a bid is nearing approval. However, the property remains untouched following demolition at the site.

Trademark specializes in commercial, industrial and residential projects, and its portfolio includes construction projects as diverse as retail, offices, warehouse and distribution facilities, churches, schools, food service and cold storage facilities, according to its website.

As commissioners began wrapping up the 2015 budget, it appeared the $350,000 from the city would not be available. It was one of many items on the “cut side,” as Commissioner Jenny Brock put it.

At the time, commissioners were searching for balance between needs and wants. This placed a few very visible items on that possible cut list, including Legion Street Pool and continued downtown streetscape and beautification improvements.

When the going got tough as the budget was taking shape in late May, Weems reported to commissioners that he was unaware the money for site preparation was at risk and that he had not talked with anyone regarding potential project delays or setbacks.

Weems, who is being paid $35,000 for his services, will be involved in overseeing the project to its completion, though the city is ultimately responsible.

Renderings show Wilson transformed into a bicycle and pedestrian path. A drive-thru is planned for the market’s south side as well as canopy-covered parking for 60. The city plans to add 25 spaces for overflow and an additional 50 spaces will be constructed on Commerce Street.

Weems has designed a multi-use space at the site that can be used for storytelling functions as well as outdoor concerts. This 18,000-square-foot space would incorporate a covered stage, but it remains unclear whether this feature will be incorporated or deleted.

Neither City Manager Pete Peterson, Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin nor Public Works Director Phil Pindzola were available for comment Tuesday.

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