City, county officials hear concept proposals for redevelopment of Knoxville VA campus

According to stakeholder and community feedback, housing, trails, green space, a hotel, a sports complex and event space were popular responses for future use of the VA campus. 

KNOXVILLE — City and county officials are now considering concepts for the redevelopment of the Knoxville Veterans District.

On Tuesday, the Marion County Board of Supervisors and the Knoxville City Council were presented three tentative concept proposals for the campus’s redevelopment.

Confluence, a planning and urban design firm out of Des Moines, has been working with city and county officials, stakeholders and community members for the past six months to develop master planning services for the campus.

According to stakeholder and community feedback, housing, trails, green space, a hotel, a sports complex and event space were popular responses for future use of the campus. Three studies also influenced the concept proposals: the Knoxville Land Use Strategy, the Marion County Comprehensive Housing Analysis and the Knoxville Bicycle and Trail Master Plan.

Concept 1 would include an enhanced pond and amphitheater; provide a welcoming first impression; row housing reminiscent of historic Veteran’s campus architecture flanking Pleasant Street; a new school site; camping adjacent to the raceway and commercial development; an extensive trail network connecting land use types; a cluster development at the west end of the site; and a higher percentage of multi-family housing.

Concept 2 would include Park Lane Drive extended as a boulevard leading to internal commercial and mixed-use developments; a roadway layout influenced by historic alignments; a reconstructed circular drive, which would provide an opportunity for a Veteran’s Memorial; mature trees along Pleasant Street preserved as a park space; apartments located near the race track; and a higher percentage of single-family housing.

Concept 3 would include a major east/west arterial route; a significant percentage of the site dedicated to park space to capture multiple mature tree stands; a row of housing reminiscent of the historic Veteran’s campus architecture flanking Pleasant Street; a new school site; camping adjacent to the raceway and commercial development; and the highest percentage of commercial development.

According to Confluence Project Manager Denise Hurt, concept 1 is estimated at $66 million; concept 2 is estimated at $62 million; and concept 3 is estimated at $49.6 million.

“All of these [concepts] are considerable increases to our tax base,” says Marion County Supervisor Chair Mark Raymie. “And that’s what’s important.”

On Jan. 15, 2020, the county acquired the former VA campus from state and federal governments. The city will be in charge of redeveloping the campus after the county goes through the demolition phase. According to City Manager Aaron Adams, the city currently has over $728,000 on hand to fund the redevelopment.

“There will be no property tax increase for these funds for anyone,” says Adams. “We have just under three-quarters of a million dollars on hand, right at this moment, ready to invest, and that number is growing daily. We have projections that by 2023, we will be at about $2.3 million.”

The city also has the ability to leverage up to $900,000 in sponsored projects for the campus, adds Adams. Existing urban renewal funds will be utilized to collect funds specifically for the redevelopment project.

“Our expectation by 2023 is that we will begin to see some progress, and the property will start to see a broadening of our tax base and some positive flow of revenue off the property itself,” says Adams.

Since 2014, $12.4 million of residential valuation has been added to the city, according to Adams. Another $55.5 million of commercial/industrial valuation has also been added over the past six years.

Raymie says he would like to have a redevelopment concept finalized by spring 2021 so the county can begin the demolition process. Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch would also like to form an agreement between the city and the county before finalizing a concept.

“This is a huge move for the city of Knoxville and for Marion County as a whole,” says Hatch. “It’s something we’ve been planning for and looking forward to for several years now, and we feel like we’ve worked really hard to try to put ourselves in a good position to move forward. So, I hope we are there.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at 641-672-2581 or by email at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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