Consultants address public questions regarding West Walnut master plan

Zach Vance • Jun 8, 2018 at 7:10 PM

Following last month’s reveal of the West Walnut Street master plan, consulting firm Kimley-Horn gave the public 18 days to provide feedback on its conceptual master plan to redevelop the corridor connecting East Tennessee State University to downtown Johnson City.

With the deadline now lapsed, Kimley-Horn project manager Ben Miskelly compiled the comments into a report, with the majority of comments related to how the city will fund the plan and how long the project will take. 

“(A) majority of the comments and questions from the community revolved around questions of how the city will fund the plan, what the construction process and timeline will be ... Questions of this nature will be answered in the final report and through the project,” Miskelly wrote in the report. 

He also said a tremendous amount of community conversation was directed towards the removal and relocation of existing businesses along the corridor. When Kimley-Horn hosted its open house last month at One Acre Cafe, some conceptual diagrams showed some buildings repurposed that house existing businesses. 

Miskelly said the majority of those comments came from a “misunderstanding” of the conceptual master plan’s purpose. 

“The intent of the plans provided was to dictate the form and scale of future development. It is used for the city to plan for future improvements and changes over a 20-30 (year) period. It does not dictate the redevelopment of particular properties/businesses,” he wrote. 

In regards to the University Parkway and West Walnut Street intersection, Miskelly said many commenters wanted to see changes to shore up traffic concerns in that area. 

The consulting team has proposed restricting left turns from University Parkway onto West Walnut Street, but due to the amount of concern, Miskelly said his team will study more restrictive measures to include in his team’s final report. 

During the open house, the Kimley-Horn team allowed the public to vote for one of two different streetscape layouts: one consisting of two traffic lanes and two parking lanes and one that with two traffic lanes, one dedicated bicycle lane and a single parking lane. 

By a 3-to-1 margin, the public chose the option that included the bike lane, the Kimley-Horn report read. 

“The three biggest takeaways from this selection were: Connection between ETSU and downtown; Provides an attraction not yet seen in Johnson City; and Two lanes of parking may not be needed,” he wrote about the bike lane for West Walnut Street. 

To solve stormwater issues, the consulting team recommended building a park where Harmon Ice & Cold Storage is currently located and a “gateway park” at the current Summers Hardware & Supply Company location, near the corner of West State of Franklin Road and Sevier and Ashe streets. 

“The team heard a lot of conversation on the amount of greenspace provided within the conceptual master plan, from community members who appreciated the amount provided and those who think it is too much ... The consultant team feels the space provided is adequate for the redevelopment potential for the corridor and serves a tremendous benefit for stormwater mitigation,” Miskelly wrote. 

During a Wednesday press conference regarding Johnson City’s 2019 budget, City Manager Pete Peterson said funding has been allocated to fund construction document development for West Walnut Street. 

“There may be a little construction over there in terms of some drainage and stormwater work before the fiscal year is over, but I’m not sure,” Peterson said. 






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