Kingsport leading the way in downtown redevelopment


KINGSPORT – Continued public investment, active private sector champions and a purpose-built promotional association have come together to garner state wide recognition for Downtown Kingsport.

Barman Development Strategies, under contract to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, recently provided a comprehensive review of challenges facing downtown redevelopment and recognized those Tennessee cities that are achieving success in downtown redevelopment efforts.

Kingsport featured well in that report, presented at the Governors Conference on Economic and Community Development, with Kingsport noted for being a planned city of industry and innovation with rising repurposing of downtown spaces.

Throughout the Barman presentation, Kingsport and other regional cities were lauded for actively addressing many of the top design, marketing, promotion and economic restructuring issues present in urban cores.

In particular, Kingsport was cited for providing quality parking, signage and streetscaping, hosting a top notch farmers market facility, working to fill vacancies through attracting private sector entrepreneurial support, as well as recognizing that a vibrant downtown is attractive to young professionals. At the same time, Kingsport has also investing heavily in developing higher education facilities and invested in relationship development beyond Main Street programs to provide a unique downtown district brand.

Restaurants are a huge key, according to the Barman report, as is downtown housing development effort that preserves storefronts for commercial uses.

According to the Barman report, eight principles of success for downtown redevelopment include being visionary and inspired, proactive, capable of instilling confidence in investors, strategic in the approach, people, behavior and market driven as well as coordinated in efforts while building consensus

Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming noted Kingsports long-term support for downtown redevelopment, and noted that the City continues to stick to its guns, with 42 percent, or $6.8 million, of the 2014 bond issue directed at streets, parks and other investments in the downtown area.

For years, Kingsport has recognized that downtown is what makes Kingsport unique, Fleming said. When downtowns were declining throughout America, Kingsport retained major businesses, jobs and the City government campus. Stalwart favorites like the original Pals and Chefs Pizza remain cornerstone restaurant businesses, along with a number of other small businesses that strengthen the success of downtown today.

Through ongoing collaborative efforts with partners including the Model City Coalition, Downtown Kingsport Association, and an awesome group of private investors who recognize the attractiveness of an urban lifestyle, we have a vibrant renaissance under way with housing, commerce, education, and both industrial and tech-type jobs all taking root.

Just this month, IntelliHARTx announced 100 new jobs forthcoming in a patient contact call center operation to be located on Broad Street. Mid-term plans could see that grow to 350 to 500 jobs over the next few years.

Meanwhile, a number of new restaurant have opened downtown in the past 12 months or so, including Hokey Smokie Restaurant, Vitos Italian Ristorante, Two Dads Cafĩ, Hibbert Davis Coffee Co., Sleepy Owl Brewery and Southern Smoke BBQ and Burgers joining the downtown roster, along with the latest opening, Macados, bringing its eclectic dĩcor and menu to the downtown area after an extensive remodeling of the former Cafĩ Blue.

During the last 10 years, the City has invested $39.8 million in capital spending in downtown area higher education facilities, road improvements, land acquisition, parks, the redevelopment of the former 1 million square feet Quebecor plant and other downtown projects.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen fully understand the importance of the downtown business community and have demonstrated their commitment over the years by putting substantial resources into enhancing and improving our urban core, Fleming said. In the years ahead, we will certainly continue to look to build on these successes.