The Public Building Authority voted on Wednesday to begin negotiating with Eastman Credit Union for the sale of Millennium Park’s Lot 8.
The move, which was recommended by the PBA’s development committee in a June 30 meeting, will allow contract talks to begin while still giving both parties time to iron out details of the purchase.
In the past few months, PBA members had deliberated between three options: sell the lot to ECU for development of a financial institution; approve a sale to the Dowdy Group, which had plans to build an extended-stay hotel; or hold off on the sale of the lot to either party.
Much of the discussion, especially at the most recent development committee meeting, centered around the higher revenue, yet higher risk, associated with the hotel project versus a smaller revenue gain but almost guarantee of the financial institution’s construction. Eventually, committee members opted to recommend ECU’s bid.
The $3 million ECU branch would generate $14,000 in annual property tax (with no sales or hotel/motel tax), create a maximum of 11 jobs, and be up and running within one year of closing. ECU has offered $750,000 for the property, $45,000 of which would go toward a commission.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the PBA took up that recommendation, also learning the Dowdy Group had withdrawn its offer for Lot 8. After discussion over whether to wait for another option or to go with ECU, the PBA chose to enter into contract negotiations with ECU.
Still, a lot of details remain unresolved, especially relating to access improvements to Lot 8. ECU is hoping to see a traffic signal installed at the West State of Franklin/West Harris Road intersection, and either a roadway completed that links Harris Drive to Mountain Home Drive, to the property; or a new right in/right out access point from West State of Franklin onto the proposed lot. ECU has said it would be willing to share the cost of access improvements; the PBA has said it does not want to pay for any improvement costs.
Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson, who attended the meeting, said street improvements like a traffic light and a median on State of Franklin could easily run $500,000 or more. But he’s waiting for a meeting with East Tennessee State University in which they will discuss the school’s planned parking garage directly across State of Franklin. The details of that could impact how the city wants to deal with State of Franklin, which could impact how ECU can improve access to the lot.
In other news, the PBA also unanimously voted to recommend the re-appointment of Guy Wilson and Sam Preston to the board, and to recommend Marcy Walker fill the vacated position. The Johnson City Commission has the final say.