Local officials provide update for VA Campus project

KNOXVILLE — The City of Knoxville and the Marion County Board of Supervisors are in the infant stages of developing a master plan for the Veterans Administration Campus project.

In January, local officials announced the local government’s control of the 160-acre campus. On Tuesday, Knoxville City Council and the board held a joint meeting to discuss the progress that’s been made regarding the campus’ future, including archaeological work, the Request for Proposal (RFP) process and master planning services.

Archaeological study 

According to Mayor Brian Hatch, a team of archaeologists from the University of Iowa will travel to Knoxville this month to conduct a Phase 1 archaeological study on campus. The team will dig small test holes in areas that have been noted as probable sites for artifacts of historical significance. Hatch says these sites were previously designated by the State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) as part of their agreement.

The deadline for the project is July 17, and the total cost of Phase 1 is estimated at $12,773. If the team finds artifacts of historical significance, they will enter into Phase 2 of the study. If nothing is found, the study will cease.

RFP process

City Manager Aaron Adams says the RFP process is complete. Now, the city and the county are requesting proposals from real estate development companies interested in acquiring, rehabilitating, owning and operating buildings 27 and 28 on campus.

Through an agreement with the SHPO, buildings 27 and 28, which are the two oldest buildings on the campus, will go to market for 60 days. During this time period, private investors are able to express interest in purchasing the buildings. If no interest is expressed within 60 days, the buildings will be controlled by local government and demolished. The 60 days will end Aug. 14, 2020.

Master planning

Marion County Facilities Director and VA Project Manager Chris Nesteby says the project’s architect, Confluence, is about five weeks into a four-month process of conducting research to develop a master plan for the campus. A survey crew with Garden and Associates out of Oskaloosa partnered with Confluence to generate survey data for the project. Confluence is also conducting research by gathering public input.

“Before we ever pick up a pencil, before we come up with any ideas that we’ve seen or things that we’ve done all over the Midwest, we want to make sure we understand Knoxville, and we want to understand all of the different players involved,” says Principal Architect Matthew Carlile. “The intention is to understand how the property can benefit Knoxville, how we can generate that tax base, how we can be attractive to developers, how we can work well with neighbors, all of those things in a big bundle.”

At this time, the city and the county are looking to develop affordable workforce housing on the property. The county is responsible for the demolition process, and the city will be responsible for future infrastructure improvements.

In addition to Tuesday’s meeting, the council and the board have agreed to hold joint meetings once a month to continue to discuss and update each other regarding the property.

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

Recommended for you