The City Commission unanimously voted to approve a resolution and application for funding Thursday through the Tennessee Department of Transportation to construct a new two-lane road — through Optimist Park.
Though it may be two years before it’s finished, it may be a move that helps unlock an economic door for the area.
Clinical Management Concepts, which is constructing an 11,000-square-foot pharmaceutical distribution and compounding facility in Franklin Medical Park requested that a new access road be built from West Market Street to North State of Franklin Road via Lark Street to facilitate truck traffic as the facility comes on line.
Consider that the city has been looking to opt out of Optimist Park and relocate the Johnson City-Washington County Animal Shelter located across the street from Optimist Park on Sells Avenue, which also is situated in the new road’s path. A connection to the other side of West Market also would help lay down infrastructure needed to develop the area in and around 30 acres of city-owned land at the former National Guard Armory site.
The company is set to begin production in April, bringing with it 76 jobs and an annual payroll of about $4.5 million. Expansion is expected, and the company has reported that an additional 25 employees will be hired over the subsequent three years.
Johnson City native Guy Wilson, owner of Wilson Pharmacy, established a new division — Clinical Management Concepts — in 1999. Wilson is the division’s CEO. He also is an at-large member of the Johnson City-Washington County Economic Development Board. The entire City Commission also are members of the board. Wilson also is a Public Building Authority Board of Directors member.
The proposed roadway would be two lanes, and the project would be designed and managed by in-house staff. The project would be funded by the State Industrial Access Program. Currently, Lark Street, which is off North State of Franklin, runs only on the edge of Optimist Park.
Johnson City’s Parks and Recreation Department has been planning for about two years to decommission the old park and find new land on which to establish new programs. Today, the park remains in dire need of improvements, and it is not likely that activities at the park will continue in perpetuity.
The city received grant money to make improvements at the park. And the fact that some of that money came from the federal level requires the city to acquire new park land of equal or greater value that would be used by the parks and recreation department before it can initiate the decommission process.
“We will continue to pursue conversion for now,” said City Manager Pete Peterson. “This (road) should be a real big help to getting that whole quadrant growing, and it also sets the stage to take that road to the other side of West Market for development around the where the old armory used to be.”
The City Commission has not yet identified suitable replacement property. A new location would not necessarily need to be home to baseball or softball, but the stipulation in receiving the grant money requires the city to find, acquire and hold parks and recreation activities on the new site. This has been a standing recommendation to commissioners for about a year.
“This section would eventually tie into what we’re calling Innovation Park,” said Phil Pindzola, Public Works director. “We would also talk with the company about future expansion where the animal shelter now sits. It’s pretty advantageous for us, and it’s been on the drawing board for along time.”
Another option that’s been on the table is selling the city-owned land for commercial development. Regardless, once the acquisition of new property is made, the city would have up to 24 months to build the new park. And yes, Optimist Park can still be used. But the city would have to spend a lot of money for repairs.
Pindzola said the city will have to “open up discussions” with Boys Club Inc., which is located off West Market where the access road would connect. The road would run along the football field to the south.
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $3.9 million construction contract with Thomas Construction Co. for the Downtown Brush Creek Sanitary Sewer Interceptor Project.
The project route runs to the west of the railroad tracks downtown and follows East King, North Commerce and Lamont streets. It will include the placement of more than 3,600 feet of 42-inch interceptor, over 270 feet of 30-inch interceptor, 2,400 feet of 12-inch waterline, 22 manholes and extensive railroad work and permitting.