Public health officials have discouraged travel during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, so people have turned to outdoor activities as an outlet — including cycling.
“With schools closing, people working more from home, people jumped into cycling like it was going out of style,” said Bryan Winston, who owns Local Motion Cyclery at 701 E. Main St. in Johnson City with his wife Kim.
The shop sits a stone’s throw from the Tweetsie Trail trailhead on Alabama Street and a roughly four-minute drive from the Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park.
Local Motion Cyclery has seen business grow during the pandemic, and with renewed interest in the activity and Johnson City placing more emphasis on developing its outdoor recreation industry, the business is now planning an expansion, which would encompass two nearby lots on East Maple Street. That includes one parcel at 640 E. Maple St. that currently has a building on it.
Winston said the expansion is still in the planning stage, but according to a concept plan for the project, the owners want to redevelop the property at 640 East Maple St. with a taproom, retail space, a covered patio and a small, outdoor pump track for kids. Winston said he plans to tear the structure off the existing building’s foundation.
The business is in the middle of rezoning the two properties from R-5 (high-density residential) to MX-1 (mixed-use neighborhood) so that it can move ahead with the project. It’s also rezoning its current location at 701 E. Main St. from B-3 (supporting central business) to MX-1. The request passed the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday and will now go to the the City Commission for consideration.
Development Services Director Preston Mitchell told planning commissioners Tuesday that the city’s future land use map recommends the area remain residential, but that recommendation predates the decision to install the Tweetsie Trail.
With Cardinal Park and the Memorial Park Community Center being nearby, Mitchell said there’s a new emphasis on outdoor recreation in that area of the city.
“We really feel there’s an opportunity here not only for some infill and some small-scale growth but a new opportunity for Mr. Winston to repair or redevelop a dilapidated structure and turn this little node into something special,” Mitchell said.
City Commissioner Jenny Brock, who is also a member of the Regional Planning Commission, noted that recreational assets like the Tweetsie Trail and the Memorial Park Community Center aren’t immediately surrounded by residential properties.
She questioned whether a pump track would be compatible with the neighborhood, pointing to the noise it could generate and the availability of parking. Brock said she would be interested in hearing from nearby residents and ultimately abstained from the vote Tuesday.
Winston said he understands the concerns about parking. He said the business has committed to include parking spaces based on the square footage of the building and will be putting in bike racks. He added that he’s going to try to reduce noise on the property with fencing and trees.
“We’re not going to be a drive-to destination,” he told the planning commission. “We think the majority of our customers are going to be coming off the Tweetsie Trail whether that be running or walking or riding a bicycle.”
Planning commissioner Benjamin Whitfield said the building at 640 E. Maple St. is an eyesore.
“Anything we can do, one, to get rid of an eyesore but also build on some capital improvements for the city, especially if we’re really trying to present ourselves as an outdoors destination, this just adds to that,” he said. “I think it’s good for the community. I think it’s good for the neighborhood as well.”