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City opens floor for community input on direction of downtown development

Jessica Fuller • Updated Jan 30, 2018 at 11:46 PM

For the next step in downtown Johnson City’s development, the Washington County Economic Development Council is turning to the community.

Locals poured into the second floor of the Kings Center Tuesday night, filling almost every seat available for the two-hour brainstorming session. Before the night began, participants filled posters and banners with stickers indicating what they’d like to see downtown in the next two to five years.

Downtown Development Manager Dianna Cantler said she was happy to see so many involved and invested in Johnson City’s future. Throughout the event, presentations of the council’s ideas were laced in between work sessions with community members, which Cantler said she hoped would produce some feedback and maybe even bring some new ideas to the table from the community. 

The focus, Cantler said, is embracing Johnson City as a college town while also focusing on outdoor recreation moving forward.

“We are realizing that downtown Johnson City is the base camp for all these outdoor recreational activities in Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties,” Cantler said. “People come into our area to enjoy the river and the mountains, but then they want some place to come and hang out in the evening, listen to music, go to a brewery and go to a local restaurant, so how can we embrace and grow that outdoor recreation component?

“There might be some idea that comes out tonight that the Johnson City Development Authority hasn’t thought of, so that’s the goal.”

As posters collected a rainbow of dots, the column designating a desire for more downtown retailers appeared to attract the most attention. One of those dots came from Jessica Moore, who owns the Owl’s Nest clothing store downtown. She said while she would personally like to see more of a variety for shopping downtown, it’s also something she hears a lot from customers.

“It would draw in a lot more people if there were more places to shop,” Moore said, “I often hear people say they’d like to make a day downtown and do shopping, but it’s few and far between, or they’re specialty shops. Adding general retailers would be best.”

Cantler said the city will send out an online survey later this week for further comment from the community for further input.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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