Investment, development on tap for Johnson City, Washington County

Nathan Baker • Jan 1, 2014 at 6:08 PM

After years of economic slump, Johnson City and Washington County could see an uptick in building and capital investment in 2014.

Officials predict an increase in residential, retail and industrial projects as investor sentiment thaws.

The residential sector will see the opening of Monarch 815, a resort-style student living complex, on the site of the former Mullican Flooring facility at the intersection of West State of Franklin Road and University Parkway.

The CEO of the North Carolina-based Monarch Ventures said the 176-unit development is expected to open to tenants in August before the beginning of the fall semester at nearby East Tennessee State University.

Just down the street from the Monarch property, another large-scale housing development could begin to take shape in the city.

Evolve Development LLC has submitted plans to the city Zoning Board of Appeals for a five-building family apartment complex on the grounds of the century-old Model Mill and the neighboring Mize Farm & Garden Supply.

If approved, the buildings will contain 216 units, a mix of one, two and three bedrooms.

Selling the derelict mill property is high on the list of priorities in 2014 for the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, which has owned the aging building since 2008.

Not all of the upcoming residential developments are apartments, and not all are as close to the city’s center.

In Boones Creek, just off Interstate 26 Exit 17, Tri-Cities Developer Mitch Cox Companies are building a large-scale, 253-unit neighborhood of town homes.

The first 95 units of the $20 million development, named Boone Ridge Townhomes, are planned to be completed in late spring, with two other phases to follow within four years.

Mitch Cox Companies purchased the 11 acres of farm land in 2003, but paused on the development until the housing market improved.

In retail and restaurants, the most hotly anticipated arrival in the new year is Asheville-based Tupelo Honey.

The rapidly expanding, Southern-themed restaurant chain anticipated an opening in 2013, but amended the target date to spring 2014 after construction delays.

The historic CC&O Railroad Depot in downtown Johnson City is now deep into restoration work, and the popular restaurant is expected to begin installing its own equipment and furniture in the freight bay near the first of the year.

Two new shopping centers could also break ground in the coming year, one in Johnson City’s previously laid out medical corridor and the other in the lucrative Boones Creek community.

City leaders approved the 29-acre North State of Franklin Development late this year, giving Nashville-based GBT Realty the go-ahead to start site work for the future Franklin Commons.

When finished, the center will have 82,000 square feet of retail space, 59,500 square feet of grocery store space and room for a bank, restaurants and a fuel center.

Food City has already announced that it will provide one of the anchors with one of the largest stores in the chain.

The developer plans to start construction in the spring, but said the first tenant may not open until 2016.

In Boones Creek, an approved tax incentive district could bring interest in 100 acres of land set aside for commercial and retail development in 2014.

City development officials have hired an analyst to suggest tenants for the site and could form a marketing plan in the coming months.

Retail analyst Jeff Green said a preliminary look at the region shows a need for entertainment, which includes restaurants, theaters and upscale bowling alleys, the latter of which are gaining in popularity elsewhere in the country.

Green said his survey should be completed in January or February, and Washington County leaders could begin marketing the site to potential tenants shortly thereafter.

Read the Johnson City Press Friday to learn about flood mitigation projects, demolition and acquisitions coming in 2014 to relieve downtown flooding problems as well as creating a better environment for residents and potential investors.

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