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Developer deviates design after rash of residential realty

Nathan Baker • May 4, 2014 at 8:55 PM

The developer of a proposed apartment building across from East Tennessee State University changed the focus for the State of Franklin Road property last week after considering the recent boom in rental units along the well-trafficked corridor.

At last week’s Johnson City Commission meeting, Coal Yard Restoration, a limited liability company formed by Raleigh, N.C.’s Northgate Group, withdrew its plans to build a four-story, 60-unit student housing complex on land that was once used for coal storage by the nearby university.

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said the company now plans to pursue retail development on the site between Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank and University Parkway.

“Mr. (Eric) Brinker has looked at his project through the lens of seeing additional multi-family housing from Evolve and student housing from Monarch and has reassessed the marketability for the amount of investment he would have to make,” Van Brocklin said Friday. “He has decided retail would fit better and he would be more likely to get a return on his money.”

Construction of Monarch 815, billed as luxury student housing by developer Monarch Ventures, is already well underway on the former Mullican Flooring industrial site across Brush Creek from Coal Yard’s property.

The 176-unit complex is slated to open in August, in time for students to move in before the start of the fall semester at ETSU.

Farther east, University Edge already offers hundreds of units of student housing, and, after repeating the rezoning process, Evolve Development hopes to demolish the vacant Model Mill and Mize Farm & Garden Supply buildings and replace them with five multi-family apartment buildings.

The property for Coal Yard’s project was rezoned from I-2 (Heavy Industrial) to B-3 (Supporting Central Business) in late 2011, and the city and the developer signed a development agreement in January 2012.

Four months ago, the commission approved a request by the company to amend the development agreement to move it out of the Brush Creek floodplain by eliminating underground parking and reducing the number of bedrooms from its original proposal.

The withdrawal of the plans and the new focus on retail may be more suitable than the previously approved apartment building, Van Brocklin said.

“I feel the change from multifamily to business is appropriate,” he said. “In my mind, it’s a better use of that property. There are other retail businesses along that same stretch, and the size and nature of the land is better suited by it.”

The mayor said the developer did not name any prospective tenants, but the company did say it intends to begin developing the property in the next few months, which gives Van Brocklin the impression that there may be a business in mind, he said.

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