JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Johnson City planners have the option to repurpose a soon-to-be-vacant downtown building and parking garage for a variety of uses.
Northeast State Community College announced on Monday it would be vacating its Johnson City campus from the Downtown Centre after the spring semester ends.
The building, located at the corner of Market and Buffalo Street, was developed in the late 1970s and had served as Northeast State’s Johnson City campus since 2015.
The Downtown Centre is owned by the Johnson City Development Authority.
Executive Director Patricia Oldham told News Channel 11 the city has plenty of options in terms of what comes next for the building.
“It could be office,” Oldham said. “It could be a combination of office-retail. It could be parking. It just has all types of flexibility.”
Oldham said the building was constructed with mixed use in mind.
It features a bottom floor currently used as Northeast State class space and a green space surrounded by multiple levels of a parking garage.
With Northeast State moving out, Oldham said there is potential to bring the building back full circle to its original plan.
“Part of that was a green open space, there were front spaces that were available for retail and that you could have an office,” Oldham said. “It was designed to be a mixed-use building.”
This would not be the first time the building has changed uses.
Before Northeast State, the building housed several Washington County offices and even courtrooms.
But now, Oldham said JCDA is considering the changing needs of downtown spaces as they think about the development potential for the Downtown Centre.
“For decades, people have tried to figure out how they can use it best,” Oldham said. “As people change the way they use downtown, the buildings themselves change. That’s really where we are at this point. It has served its purposes and I think the multiple dimensions of that building are inherent to the potential that can come for the future of that building.”
Downtown Centre is located next door to another JCDA development: the John Sevier Center.
The city is planning to move the Sevier Center’s residents to a newly-built apartment complex in South Johnson City, opening the door for re-development at Johnson City’s tallest building.
Oldham said the neighboring buildings could be developed to complement one another.
“We’re going to have to figure out the quantity of parking with the quantity of units that may be in that building, and the potential between retail, office, living units or rentable units that may work out,” Oldham said. “We’ll look at that all as a block.”
Oldham said the Downtown Centre would require some renovation if the city moves toward a multi-space approach as the building only has one entrance right now.
She said any redevelopment at the Downtown Centre will take some careful planning.
“We’re going to put our heads together as a community,” Oldham said. “We’re going figure out the best use for that.”
Oldham said there is no timetable on when changes could come to the Downtown Centre, but it will be discussed by the JCDA and Johnson City Commissioners.