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Model Mill reno could finish in first quarter 2020, possibly April

David Floyd • Aug 6, 2019 at 9:30 PM

First quarter of 2020, but April is also a good guess.

That’s the estimated time of completion for the renovations to the Model Mill, a four-story, 110-year-old structure sandwiched between State of Franklin Road and West Walnut Street in Johnson City.

“We’re in that in-between phase,” said Bob Cantler, the new president and CEO of the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, which plans to occupy the building’s fourth floor once the project is complete. The chamber had initially planned on moving into the third floor of the structure.

“We’ve remediated all the materials, all the asbestos, all the lead paint, cleaned up all the interior,” Cantler said. “Now we focus on the construction. We can come in and start putting in the mechanical, the HVAC, the sprinkler systems, electrical, the office walls.”

Cantler, who started his tenure as the Chamber’s new chief at the beginning of July, gave a tour of the work-in-progress to members of the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon. He guided the members of his tour group up and down a makeshift staircase, pointing out the place where a 2016 fire crisped a portion of the then defunct plant and showing off the fourth floor view that the chamber will have of downtown Johnson City.

R&G Ventures, an agency that local developer Grant Summers formed with his father Rab Summers, bought the property from the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce in 2016.

Grant Summers plans to move his family’s highway construction business, Summers-Taylor Inc., into a portion of the building once it’s complete. He had initially hoped to move the company into the space by December.

Cantler said Summers-Taylor plans on turning the first floor of its allotment of the building into a receiving area, where it will also have space for human resources and conference rooms. The second floor will be set aside for engineering and design, he said, and the third floor will be the company’s executive level.

Developers are still working on finalizing tenants in other parts of the building, including space that could be dedicated to East Tennessee State University. Up to this point, Cantler said there have been conversations with ETSU about putting an art gallery in the building or moving staff into the space.

“We’re still having those conversations,” Cantler said. “None of that is firm yet.”

He also said developers anticipate a bakery will move into the office building at the back of the property — Cantler said he’s not ready to share the name of the bakery — and are also hoping to attract a restaurant to the property.

The mill also has 24 silos, but Cantler said developers are still trying to find a use for most of them. Two will be used as elevators, and another two will serve as stairwells.

Cantler said the renovation of the mill is a “catalyst program” in the redevelopment of Walnut Street.

The city is gearing up to invest significant time and energy into revitalizing the Walnut Street corridor. In January, the city commission approved a corridor redevelopment plan for the area.

Johnson City is working with a firm to manage the engineering and design phase of the project, which will encompass improvements to utilities and storm water infrastructure as well as the complete reconstruction of Walnut Street from University Parkway to Buffalo Street.

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