JCDA closes on Sevier Center

Nathan Baker • Updated Sep 9, 2019 at 9:02 PM

The Johnson City Development Authority is now the proud owner of a 95-year-old apartment building.

At a press conference Monday in a church parking lot adjacent to the John Sevier Center, the organization’s officials announced officially closing on the historic downtown property on Sept. 5.

“When we first began negotiations with the owners of the John Sevier, we didn’t realize this would take almost 12 months to accomplish, however, the JCDA was determined to overcome every obstacle,” Development Authority Chair Robert Williams said.

It was Sept. 14 last year when the organization’s governing board voted to buy the property. Washington County commissioners’ reluctance to approve the board’s original plan for funding using tax increment financing slowed the process and sent the JCDA to HomeTrust Bank for a loan for the $4.6 million purchase price.

A portion of the loan will be used to make immediate repairs to satisfy dwelling standards requirements ahead of an inspection by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, which subsidizes the rents of the Sevier Center’s 150 residents. Williams said he expects that inspection within 90 days.

Since the Development Authority announced its plans to buy the building and match it with a commercial developer, community members have asked how the residents fit into the plan.

On Monday, Williams reaffirmed the board members’ commitment to the well-being of the residents, and said a couple of developers have already expressed interest in building new housing units for them. The authority will put out a request for proposals soon to search for a builder to take on the project, he said.

Once the residents are relocated, the authority plans to sell the building to a commercial developer in hopes it will bring retail, restaurants, residential units and office space.

JCDA board member Brent Long, who heads the committee tasked with managing the Sevier Center redevelopment project, likened the former hotel to the Farragut Hotel in Knoxville and the Poinsett Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. All three of the hotels were designed by architect William Lee Stoddart.

With the Model Mill, which is currently being redeveloped on West Walnut Street, and the greenspace of Founders Park and King Commons, Williams said the redeveloped John Sevier could be a third anchor in Johnson City’s downtown, bringing economic activity and vitality to the city’s core.