North State of Franklin Road to be designated MLK highway instead of University Parkway

Instead of designating University Parkway as the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Johnson City commissioners will instead vote Thursday to request the Tennessee General Assembly designate another Johnson City highway to honor the civil rights icon.

City Manager Pete Peterson said city officials recently learned University Parkway had already been designated the Purple Heart Highway, therefore city commissioners will now request the stretch of North State of Franklin Road from the intersection of West Market Street to Bristol Highway be designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

In May 2017, the Johnson City/Washington County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed an application with the city to rename North State of Franklin — from Sunset Drive to the Bristol Highway — Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. 

After plenty of back and forth, the City Commission finally found common ground with proponents of the name change by voting to request the General Assembly designate University Parkway in honor of King.  

The City Commission’s vote differed from the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission’s recommendation to rename King Street and King Commons Park in downtown Johnson City, which many NAACP officials openly opposed. 

Peterson said stakeholders and community members were notified about the highway designation change and were supportive of the move. He anticipates the General Assembly adopting the designation before the end of the current legislative session. 

PILOT Project 

At Monday’s agenda review meeting, city officials heard from Carr Hagan, president of LHP Development, LLC, whose company is looking to gain majority ownership of Lakewood Village Apartments, a 104-unit, low-income housing complex off Swadley Road. 

Hagan is seeking a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, or PILOT, to help offset some of the costs associated with renovating the apartment complex, which he said entails investing approximately $55,000 into each unit.

Peterson said commissioners will vote to authorize the Johnson City Health and Educational Facilities Board to enter into negotiations with Hagan on the PILOT agreement. 

Hagan said his company is proposing the current tax rate, without the renovations, incrementally grow by $10,000 every five years for the next 15 years. 

“Basically, (we’ll be) correcting 40 years of wear and tear that’s happened to these things. If you levy a tax against that, the property basically becomes unfeasible because you can’t borrow as much because your income is reduced by that large hit. So this will be a very predictable, very manageable increase,” Hagan said.

“The city of Johnson City is going to end up collecting more off it than it probably would if nothing happened. If nothing happened to it, then you’d probably have a property that would continue to age and probably continue to devalue at each five-year reappraisal cycle.” 

Hagan said housing costs for tenants will not be altered and each tenant will be relocated to another unit or hotel for six to eight weeks while the renovations are being completed. 

“Nobody’s rent is going to go up as a result of this that currently lives there,” Hagan said. 

Wayfinding Project

Bids came back for materials and installation of signage and other items related to a wayfinding initiative city officials undertook in 2016. 

Johnson City contracted graphic design firm MERJE to complete a review of the city’s signs and wayfinding process, and based on all its recommendations — new parking signs, pedestrian signs, kiosks, to name a few — Snyder Signs issued a bid of $1.14 million. 

By picking and choosing what recommendations were needed and affordable, city officials were able to whittle the cost down to approximately $500,000.

However, Vice Mayor Jenny Brock, Mayor David Tomita and Commissioner Todd Fowler all agreed to delay awarding the bid, effectively denying all bids, until the city’s rebranding effort is farther along to ensure both schemes are compatible.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola suggested issuing request for proposals again in July for signs. 





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