Efforts underway to rehabilitate Buffalo Street building

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Re-development and revitalization projects have made for a bustling downtown Johnson City.

However, the building located at 107 Buffalo Street has sat vacant for at least 25 years, according to city development leaders.

Director of Downtown Development for the Johnson City Development Authority Dianna Cantler calls the building a major anchor for the area.

“The community itself is really embracing downtown,” she said, “and so when you have a building like the 1888 that is on a major thoroughfare coming into downtown, it doesn’t represent us well.”

Constructed in 1888, the building has now fallen into disrepair. Broken windows and crumbling brick can be seen from the street.

1888, the year the building was built, is prominently displayed on a corner of the building.

“The longer a building stays vacant,” said Cantler, “the more difficult, the more expensive it is to restore.”

The structure was referred to the Board of Dwellings Standards and Review back in March and recently, the owners were issued a notice to repair the building.

An “Order by the Board” and “Order to Repair” is posted on the buildings exterior.

According to City of Johnson City Chief Building Official, Jim Sullivan, the owners live in California.

“The building actually presented a hazard at one point where the brick cornerstone was starting to fall off the building,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan said those owners are now in the process of at least restoring the exterior facade of the building.

Sullivan adds the owners are in negotiations with a contractor, who has a scope of work to replace the storefront and to restore the glazing on the building.

If the owners do not repair the potentially hazardous structure, the Board of Dwelling Standards and Review has the power order a demolition.

“This building was on that precipice at this time,” he said. “The owners realize that they don’t want to lose the structure and quite frankly the city doesn’t want to demolish that building and leave a hole in our storefronts.”

The Johnson City Development Authority offers a reimbursable grant to help property owners in the historic district repair building facades.

Property owners can also apply for tax increment financing to help make repairs.

Development leaders also said they hope to see the city start taking steps to create tighter ordinances to help encourage property owners to start working on their vacant buildings downtown.

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