U-Haul looks to haul out of downtown, into new location

Gary B. Gray • May 29, 2014 at 8:34 PM

U-Haul will close on the former Lowe’s and Fun Expedition site at 2805 N. Roan St. on June 4, allowing the company to relocate its downtown business and opening the door for Johnson City’s pursuit of a large storm water project at the site.

U-Haul International Director of Media and Public Relations Joanne Fried confirmed Thursday that the company is set to close on the property and move its operations at 114 King St. as soon as is physically possible.

“It looks like we are scheduled to close on the new location June 4 and begin moving into the new location,” Fried said. “We’re really hoping to start rentals right away. We anticipate it will take about three months to rebuild our storage units.”

It now appears U-Haul will be moving soon, averting an ongoing financial loss and sidestepping a Dec. 31 drop-dead date that could have meant eviction by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

A provision in a 2013 deal with the city to add $90,000 to the property value at the downtown site expired April 1, meaning $10,000 will drop off the city’s $910,000 offer each month the company remains there.

Negotiations resulted in an agreement in which U-Haul would get $910,000 for the property — $90,000 more than the city-appraised $820,000 that has been sitting in Circuit Court for the taking. However, that price will drop by at least $20,000 before the company vacates the premises.

Under the agreement, U-Haul must be gone by Dec. 31, and the city could initiate eviction proceedings. Eric Herrin, the attorney representing the city in a legal dispute over possession of the property, said another alternative would be to renegotiate with the company.

Herrin was not immediately available for comment, but it does look like these issues will be avoided.

“We should be out by that deadline,” Fried said. “We should be well within that time frame.”

In June 2013, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Seeley’s signature ended a years-long legal tussle in which U-Haul claimed Johnson City was condemning and possessing its downtown property primarily for financial benefit and not for a flood-mitigation project meant to serve the public good.

Since that time, Johnson City has had legal access to the large, low-lying, but strategically important, piece of downtown property on which a flood-relief project is planned that likely will result in aesthetic improvements and redevelopment opportunities when the fixes are complete.

The city has been granted an “Order of Possession” by the court, but city officials say they will not exercise that right until the company has had sufficient time to relocate.

Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter at @ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.

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