How much infill development is happening in Johnson City? Not that much, real estate expert says

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 2, 2018 at 12:23 AM

To gauge the scope of infill residential development within the Johnson City limits, you might start by taking a look at residential building permits obtained in a single month.

Eight single-family housing projects received permits in June: one on Thunder Bay Drive is worth $650,000, and another on Villa Court is worth $407,000. An additional $10.5 million project was approved in June to build an apartment complex on Peoples Street, a predominately commercial area.

Looking at these developments, they might appear to be part of an emerging trend, as developers continue looking at smaller lots to develop housing within corporate limits.

Changes in Tennessee’s annexation laws have limited the city’s ability to grow its footprint. So it’s more advantageous for Johnson City to encourage infill development, which would make it easier to extend public services to residential areas in the corporate limits.

But while infill development has been encouraged in recent years, Johnson City isn’t actually seeing as much as some other localities, according to Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors President Aaron Taylor.

“Infill development is huge in places like Nashville, but as far as Johnson City goes, we’re not seeing it as much,” he said. “We just don’t see that as much in Johnson City. Could there be a need for it? I absolutely agree. Is it really happening? Not really.

“In the city, we haven’t seen as many new residential neighborhoods grow up,” he continued. “We see them in Boones Creek and Gray because the developers here often haven’t been able to find the land for the right price for the construction of homes for people to live in. So things spread out further and further.”

Some recent residential developments in the past year include multiple developments in and around the Hillrise Woods subdivision, where a single-family home is being built at 906 Forest Ave. Perhaps the most recent and most controversial example of infill building includes a concept plan proposed by Mitch Cox Companies to build a multimillion-dollar, 265-apartment complex behind The Mall at Johnson City.

That plan was approved by city commissioners on Aug. 16.

“There is demand for folks to rent that style of apartment complex, it’s just sometimes hard to find the land for the right price,” Taylor said.

But while there is demand for more residential properties in some parts of Johnson City’s corporate limits, the big money involved in infill development is what makes it risky. Even some existing properties in the downtown district, for instance, haven’t been flipped in years.

“To me, it seems like it might be too expensive to remodel them and turn them into lofts and things we need. I think it could be huge if it could be done,” he said.

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