WCEDC meeting provides update on Model Mill, downtown business openings

Zach Vance • Oct 20, 2016 at 5:40 PM

Described as a piece of property that could potentially transform Walnut Street, the process to revitalize the Model Mill appears promising. 

Washington County Economic Development Council Downtown Development Manager Dianna Cantler gave an update on the mill and other downtown businesses during a monthly meeting Thursday.

After showing images of damage caused by a September fire, Cantler showcased two renderings of what the building could look like after being restored by Summers-Taylor if the building is purchased from the Chamber of Commerce. 

“I’m going to show you some images that will hopefully get you really excited about what this piece of property can be, and how it’s going to transform Walnut Street,” Cantler told the WCEDC. 

“This is an image from Sevier Street and you can see where they have added in some glass work and really bringing it back to the true character of the building.” 

While the renderings didn’t include some of the aluminum buildings currently surrounding the property, the large trademark silos were still standing. 

“They have left the silos, and I know there have been some creative discussions going on about what could go in those silos and how they could be used,” Cantler said. 

The first rendering showed a building on the outskirts of the property that Cantler said could be utilized as a restaurant or coffee shop. 

“We really appreciate and are excited about Rab (Summers’) and Grant (Summers’) commitment to this building, and what it means to, not only the history of Johnson City, but the future of Walnut Street and how that connection between the university and downtown will transform this area,” Cantler said. 

Summers-Taylor CEO Rab Summers was also in attendance and said his company hoped to close on purchasing the property next month pending insurance covering the damage caused by the fire. 

“We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to close. The Chamber has insurance on the building and as long as that insurance will bring the building back to what it was when we bought it then we’ll certainly close,” Summers said. 

“(The damage) could have been way worse. It’s primarily the whole roof structure and then there is extensive water damage to the first and second floors. There is all kind of hardwood flooring that we were going to use and it’s not usable anymore. It could have been a lot worse but it’s still extensive.”

The mill’s 20-year tax increment financing incentive plan has been passed through four committees, and the final approval will be voted on during Monday’s Washington County Commission meeting. 

“The current value of the mill itself is $313,000. The proposed value will be $7 million. So that increment is over $6 million, which brings the 100 percent incentive that’s available to $1,195,542,” Cantler explained. 

Other downtown news included the opening of Wild Wings Cafe on Nov. 18 and Johnson City Brewing Company’s new tap room on Nov. 12. 

The council’s regional transformation to include Carter and Unicoi counties is on track as far as filing necessary paperwork and fundraising efforts. 

Council attorney Steve Darden said the group filed submitted its 501(c)(6) federal tax designation application on Wednesday to become a business league, similar to that of a chamber of commerce. 

Council CEO Mitch Miller said he was optimistic to get a response from the Internal Revenue Service within six weeks. 

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP


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