Brewery, legacy project get budget committee's approval

Robert Houk • Updated Aug 14, 2019 at 10:53 PM

The Washington County Budget Committee voted Wednesday to approve use of funds from tax increment financing for two key projects in downtown Johnson City.

Committee members approved $220,000 from TIF funds for the Legacy Sesquicentennial Project at King Commons. The panel also agreed to use $195,915 from the TIF district for the Watauga Brewery, to be located in a renovated building at 142 W. Walnut St.

Both items will be voted on at the County Commission’s meeting on Aug. 26.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy told committee members the TIF request for the sesquicentennial project does not “require any new money from the county.”

Dianna Cantler, director of downtown development at the Johnson City Development Authority, said work on the Legacy Plaza, which will include a history circle, is expected to be completed in late November. The Nature Adventure Area at King Commons will be ready in the spring.

She said the Watauga Brewery project will include extensive interior renovations to facilitate a restaurant, a roof-top bar and event space. She said the redevelopment of the 2,500-square-foot building at the corner of West Market and Boone streets is likely to spur other rehabilitation projects on the block.

“Owners are more likely to put money in their property now that flooding concerns have been addressed,” she said.

Cantler also told commissioners that downtown was far from reaching the “saturation point” for the number of craft breweries the area could support. She said there were 14 breweries now operating in Knoxville and 28 in Asheville, N.C.

“We are no way near that number,” she said.

In other business, Grandy told committee members he will compile a list of projects that could be included in the county’s capital fund. He said that list would prioritized and discussed by the committee next month.

The list will include $465,520 for a new emergency medical services station and a request from the Washington County Election Commission for $975,000 to buy a building, which sits across U.S. Highway 11E from the George P. Jaynes Justice Center, to relocate its offices.

Another $345,000 would be needed for renovations to the building, which formerly housed Olde Towne Hardware.

A recent appraisal of the property, now owned by the family of former Jonesborough Alderman David Sell, valued the 1.9-acre tract at $791,000.

Commissioner Jim Wheeler said he was “excited by the possibilities” the property offers the county for new meeting space. He also asked the Election Commission to “flush out details” of a possible lease-to-own option for the county to acquire the property.

Committee members also voted Wednesday to approve $258,000 to cover the cost to complete the design and construction work on Phase 1 of athletic fields at the Boones Creek pre-K-8 school. 

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