A Sevierville attorney has placed a 90-day option on the CC&O Railroad Depot, with the possibility of purchasing the historic property and developing it into a brewery.
The Johnson City Development Authority, the depot’s owner, entered into an option agreement with Joseph A. Baker on Friday. Baker has 90 days to do due diligence and if he chooses to buy the property, “it shall be for the primary purpose of operating an alcoholic beverage production and retail facility,” according to the agreement.
Baker could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The production facility would use the warehouse, loading dock and office space upstairs for the business, said Robert Reynolds, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council. In the 90 days leading up to the option deadline, the possible buyers are also looking to partner with a restaurant to use the rest of the depot’s available space, he said.
“There has been some discussion of that possibility,” Reynolds said. “But the purchase would not be contingent on the restaurant.”
The JCDA would have final approval of the depot’s use before any sale, and the interested party is intent on restoring and preserving the building’s historical aspects, Reynolds emphasized to JCDA board members on Friday. He also said no zoning change would be needed, and the possible sale would serve to put the property on the tax rolls and create jobs.
In light of that, the JCDA would be willing to offer a heavily discounted price on the depot, Reynolds said. The purchase price listed in the option agreement is $1, although officials said that might not be the final price.
“The building is in deplorable condition. Any viable project going in there could ask for TIF (tax-increment financing), but we don’t want to obligate TIF money for it. We would offer a reduced price,” Reynolds said. “With a private owner, it would be on the tax rolls right away, generating revenue and job creation.”
The option landed on the JCDA’s desk just a little while after a previous contract with local developer Mitch Cox Companies had expired. In early May, the Johnson City company also signed a 90-day option, with the possibility of purchasing and renovating the depot.
The JCDA purchased the depot in early 2010 for $150,000.