KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — A multi-million dollar Main Street makeover is in the works for Kingsport.

About a mile of the downtown area’s key roadway is set for construction work. The project is scheduled to take around two years to complete.

Wooden power poles on the north side of Main Street will be removed as part of the project

Assistant Public Works Director Michael Thompson serves as the Main Street project’s manager. He said updating the street has been a goal of the city for over a decade, and the planning phase has lasted around six years.

For a a new visitor coming into downtown Kingsport, Main Street could be the first thing they see. But city officials know its current appearance isn’t leaving the best impression.

“There’s been a focus and a need to improve this gateway into downtown for years. Obviously, it doesn’t present the best light to the city. We want to make this corridor more walkable,” said Thompson.

The city plans to transform the power pole-lined section from East Sullivan to Cherokee St. to make it more closely resemble the downtown core section, beautified with trees.

“The project consists of completely rebuilding the road from Sullivan Street to Cherokee Street. And then giving the downtown core a facelift,” he said.

The current stretch of road looking towards E Sullivan St.
A rendering of the road post-construction

The rebuild isn’t all about appearances. Poor soil conditions beneath the downtown area have been causing sub-grade failures of the roadways.

“So we’re going to have to take some of that soil out, put stone backfill and geotextile fabric in, so that we can stabilize all that. So all the work we do coming back up lasts for a lifetime,” said Thompson.

The current road surface near the Cherokee St. crosswalk

The total estimated project cost is $9.6 million. Eighty percent of the cost will be funded by federal grants. Thompson listed the cost breakdown as follows:

Federal:                               $6,640,000

City – General Fund:       $1,360,000

City – Utility Funds:         $1,600,000 

Total:                                  $9,600,000

Once completed, the street will be up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, parking will be reconfigured, and the wooden poles will be gone from the north side of the road.

To maintain access to downtown businesses throughout the construction, Thompson says they’ll be taking a block-by-block approach around the downtown core area from Cherokee to Clay Street, and only work on one side of the road at a time between Sullivan and Cherokee.

“Because of all that phasing to make sure we’re supporting our businesses, it’s going to take approximately two years,” Thompson said.

Main Street businesses are bracing for the construction. Model City Tap House owner Shelton Clark believes the end result will be worth it.

“We may have a little issue for four to six weeks, but we’ll work through it. And the city’s been great about keeping us posted,” said Clark. “We made it through these last twelve months. I guarantee you we can make it through a short time like that.”

An agreement between the city and TDOT lists the project completion date as April 1, 2024. Thompson said construction will probably start in late summer after the city puts the project up for bid.