Thursday, November 12, 2015

City closes on purchase of former State Supreme Court site from state

The City of Knoxville formally closed today on the former State Supreme Court property on Henley Street, buying it from the state. The city now plans to start the bidding process for the 1.7-acre property, for commercial or residential development.

City Council voted in August to purchase the property, which occupies one square block of downtown real estate, for $2.47 million. The State Supreme Court relocated to the Post Office building on Main Street in 2003.

“This is a big piece of the downtown grid. Our first step will be to commission a marketing study for the site, to assess its potential for mixed-use development,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, Director of the City’s Office of Redevelopment. “Then we will have a public process to discuss the property, which will help us shape our Request for Proposals.”

The goal is to issue an RFP in 2016, so that redevelopment of the site can begin as soon as possible.

In the near term, the City will continue to operate the surface parking lot adjacent to the State Supreme Court building. The Public Building Authority will oversee the lot, which will be open for paid parking during weekdays and free parking after 6 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.

The Office of Redevelopment is also planning next steps for City-owned properties on West Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Gay Street, which include the sites of the former McClung Warehouses. Last month, City Council approved an application for a brownfield cleanup grant for those properties from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal is to get the properties ready for redevelopment.

The timeline on issuing a Request for Proposals for the Jackson Avenue properties is dependent on several other factors. The state Department of Transportation will be closing a section of Broadway between Jackson and Depot avenues in the near future for the complete reconstruction of the Broadway Viaduct. TDOT will be using part of the Jackson Avenue properties as a staging and storage area. Meanwhile, the City is moving forward with streetscape work on West Jackson, and the aging Jackson Avenue ramps at the Gay Street intersection are scheduled for upcoming reconstruction as well.

“Realistically, we can’t begin redevelopment of the West Jackson Avenue sites until these crucial infrastructure projects are finished,” Foster said. “So we’re probably looking three years out. But in the meantime, we hope to complete any brownfield remediation, and work toward an RFP that can be ready to go when the time is right.”

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