Crews have been working on an extension to Lark Street, which involves expanding the road from North State of Franklin Road to West Market Street, since earlier this year. The newly expanded road will cut through Optimist Park, across the former animal shelter property on Sells Avenue and connect with West Market Street beside the Boys and Girls Club.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation awarded the project to Summers-Taylor Inc. at a cost of about $3.1 million, which includes city expenses. The contract is for the grading, drainage and paving of the roadway. Johnson City voted in March 2018 to spend about $731,000 on curbs, gutters, sidewalks and a drainage system.
TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi said the project is a little more than halfway complete, about 53.3% to be precise, and has a due date of May 31, 2020.
According to earlier Johnson City Press reporting, the state is financing the project through TDOT’s State Industrial Access Program, which the agency says on its website provides funding and technical assistance to new and expanding industries in the state. Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the city is covering everything not considered an eligible expense under that grant program.
The newly expanded Lark Street will serve Clinical Management Concepts, which sits at 525 N. State of Franklin Road. According to a Press article published in September 2012, the owner of Clinical Management Concepts, Guy Wilson, had requested the access road via Lark Street to help with truck traffic at the facility.
Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said Wednesday the expansion will take some of the burden off the intersection of West Market Street and State of Franklin, helping traffic flow.
Brock said it will also provide additional access to the shopping center on the corner of that intersection, where Publix is planning a new store, and will open up new opportunities for development for a roughly 12 acre plot of city-owned land on West Market Street. That plot used to be home to the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter, which had an address at 525 Sells Ave. before it moved to North Roan Street.
First discussed in January 2012, the Lark Street extension project encountered a few obstacles that it had to overcome before work could move forward: City leaders had to wait for the the relocation of the animal shelter, reconfigure the recreational fields at the Boys and Girls Club to make room for the road, and transfer a federal designation on Optimist Park, which restricted the use to outdoor recreation, to another city-owned property.
“It has taken a long time,” Brock said, “but I think a lot of it was just a variety of red tape we had to deal with through state and federal agencies, but we’re happy it’s underway.”
The city has since transferred that federal designation at Optimist to the Keefauver Farm, a 52 acre plot of land that the city purchased in 2009. The city is now trying to transfer that federal designation again — this time moving it to a 37 acre plot of land on the Bristol Highway that the city purchased in 2018.
Pindzola said the Lark Street expansion project is part of a master plan for the area designed to open up potential for growth in unused acreage.