Old store to make way for downtown parking

Gary B. Gray • Jan 7, 2012 at 12:01 AM

The property commonly referred to as the old Johnson City Furniture Store is now owned by Johnson City, which plans to demolish the structure, make repairs to a decrepit culvert lying underground and to use the lot for downtown parking.

City commissioners on Thursday approved the purchase of 133 W. Main St. from CRC Breeze LLC for $75,000. The store, which has been at that spot at least back to the early 1920s, is located directly above the original Brush Creek. The purchase meshes with the city’s long-term storm water plan, though that particular location currently is not a high priority.

Under the store sits a dilapidated culvert built in the 1930s.

“I think our immediate concern was, is there a liability there?” said Phil Pindzola, Public Works director. “We did a study and found significant structural issues. We’ll be upgrading that area with improvements (to help water flow) before we convert it to parking.”

Money from the city’s Storm Water Utility Fund was used for the purchase.

At one time, the owners were going to place the Blue Moon Dinner Theatre at the location but decided against it when the structural inefficiencies were discovered. The tax records value the property at $175,800, and the property was purchased by the most recent owner in 2004 for $100,000.

Pindzola said once the drainage system is fixed, it would be filled in. The city also plans to convert the fenced area directly behind the Johnson City Transit System site into additional parking space pending City Commission approval.

“So we’ll have city owned property that can be used — in the short term — for parking for Northeast State Community College and for overflow from downtown,” he said. “The opportunity also exists for economic development at these sites.”

Other properties purchased by the city in the past six months for flood remediation include Commissioner Jane Myron’s former property at 200 W. Market St., and other properties at 200 and 204 West Market. Another property is at 102 Montgomery St., identified as the Whaley property.

Demolition costs are estimated at about $25,000 per property.

In April, commissioners agreed to a recommendation by City Manager Pete Peterson to borrow up to $6 million to get started on the city’s long-term downtown flood remediation plan.

Peterson unveiled the plan — which constitutes about one-third of the overall plan — after commissioners, architects and city staff had examined and re-examined how to get the biggest bang for their buck knowing they did not have the estimated $30 million to pay for the entire plan.

The highest priority in this first phase is the acquisition of the U-Haul property at 114 W. King Street. This is an essential piece of the storm water puzzle, but it appears the company will fight condemnation in court.

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