City leaders meet to discuss next steps in West Walnut redevelopment plan

The Johnson City Regional Planning Commission, the West Walnut Corridor Task Force and project consultants have proposed a long-term development plan for West Walnut Street in Johnson City that would redevelop the corridor to it's full potential.

The plan is to make the area walk-able, bike-able and pedestrian friendly, connecting downtown Johnson City to the ETSU campus.

This revitalization is expected to have a huge economic impact on Johnson City, but the plan will take about 20 years to completely roll out.

"This is a slow process because it needs to be an adequate and complete process," says Joe Wise, the taskforce chair. 

The process to revamp the West Walnut Street Corridor is taking a step forward.

"Now there's a thriving downtown and a growing university on either end of the corridor and so seeing that area reinvented is part of the idea. That doesn't mean old things go away, it means we create an environment where positive new things can come in alongside of them," says Wise. 

The city leaders and consultants met for a workshop on Thurs. August 9 to give a status update on the project and work out some of the kinks.

"We want this to work for the city, the whole plan is for the city to grow from this," says project manager Ben Miskelly with the consulting firm Kimley-Horn. 

Some of the plan proposals include adding bike lanes, public art and street parking to the corridor. They also want to expand commercial and residential business on Walnut Street.

City leaders believe this will bring in revenue to the area and raise property values. 

"What the plan might do is enhance value, enhance traffic and really be a positive for the people who are already here. It represents a sort of reinvestment," says Wise. 

Thursday's meeting held lots of discussion on what works and what does not work as the plan stands. 

The consultants emphasized that they want to keep the "urban fabric" of the area while bringing in these proposed new developments. 

"When you have this corridor where you can start to encourage people to walk, or to bike and to spend time at the shops, it really creates a vibrant corridor," says Miskelly. 

Money to fund this project will come from many different revenue sources throughout the city, including tax dollars.

As for the next step, the planning commission has to approve the plan at the end of the month. It will then be passed to the Johnson City City Commission who can approve it or ask for changes. 

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