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JCDA seeking public input on redeveloping Majestic Park

Zach Vance • Apr 21, 2019 at 6:59 PM

Formerly a renowned theater with the same name, Majestic Park in downtown Johnson City is once again being eyed for redevelopment, this time by the Johnson City Development Authority’s Design Committee. 

Last week, the Design Committee began circulating an online survey seeking public input about what amenities might be best suited for the 0.22-acre green space, tucked in between The Hideaway and the former Kress building at 239 E. Main St. In the survey, the green space is referred to as a “pocket park” comprised of one-to-three vacant lots, where seating, shade, art, activities and socialization occurs. 

“What we want to do is activate public spaces that cause people to be engaged and to linger there,” Dianna Cantler, JCDA downtown development director, said. 

“The survey is part of the placemaking process. It’s where you identify some of the issues, but you encourage people that might be using it to give feedback on how they’d like to see it activated. So the survey is our component to just reach out to people and ask, ‘How would you use this space?’”

The survey asks such questions, “How would you use Majestic Park?” and “Would you like to have games like ping pong, corn hole, etc.?” It states that games pieces could be rented from adjacent businesses. It also asks participants to rank from 1-10 how important it would be to have a stage for entertainment. 

“My thought is (Majestic Park) is an ideal location for people to gather while they’re waiting for a table at one of the restaurants, or when they come out of a restaurant and just want to sit around and talk with neighbors,” Cantler said. “I also think it lends itself to having some type of staging (for entertainment). That would be great for when we close down Main Street.” 

During the April 15 agenda review meeting, Cantler also mentioned to city commissioners and City Manager Pete Peterson the possibility of putting a small stage, made out of pavers, back at Majestic Park. 

Peterson said he would suggest the stage be portable, since last time a stage was there “it made an excellent room and board,” a likely reference to people sleeping on it. 

“It’s a shame. Reality is reality. You’ve got to work around some things,” Peterson said.  

The park was once the location of a premiere theater, originally called The Grant Theatre when it first opened in 1902. By June 1914, it was renamed the Majestic Theatre and showed first-run movies until its closure in 1981. A roof failure in 1996 ultimately led to the building being torn apart by cranes and heavy equipment.

The city eventually gained ownership of the property and converted it into a public park with a gazebo, trees, shrubbery and a sidewalk running through it. By 2015, the gazebo was removed by the city to make way for renovations, led by the Friends of Olde Downtown organization, but that never materialized.

Most recently, Allied Dispatch Solutions CEO Anthony Royer had expressed interest in owning the park and using it as green space for his corporate headquarters next door.

At Monday’s agenda review meeting, Cantler said she attempted to contact Royer to see if he was still interested in the park.

“They never returned my call,” she said. “I just think we’re going to move on. We want to activate that space. We’re going to do a survey just to ask people, ‘What do you like about these pocket parks?’”

“It’s a decline of interest, the way I see it,” Peterson said. 

To take the JCDA’s Majestic Park survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/Y2K3PPF.

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