KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The State Theater has called Broad Street in downtown Kingsport home for over 85 years.
Throughout the years, the property has lived many lives. From hosting movies on the big screen to even becoming a school for gymnastics, the limitations on this space seem to not exist and that’s something Kingsport-native Mark Hunt is using to his advantage.
Hunt purchased the property in late 2019 with big plans to transform the space into a live music and entertainment venue within a year timeline, but COVID altered those plans, dramatically pushing back that desired timeline.
In the early months of 2022, his dreams of developing this project are back on the table. Hunt told News Channel 11 while the delay wasn’t ideal, it also wasn’t the worst thing to happen.
“Yes, the pandemic held me back, but at the same time, it’s somewhat of a blessing. It gave me more time to do it the way I want it done. This is more of a passionate hobby than it is a for-profit kind of thing. For me, if I can just get enough to get it up and keep it going, I’ll be happy,” Hunt said.
The nearly 6,000-square foot property has a first floor, second floor, and rooftop space ready to be developed, according to Hunt. He wants to make this an event space for live music acts and more. He also has plans to develop a rooftop entertainment space, possibly a bar on top of the theater.
Right now, the project is in the permit process but he feels once they get rolling on construction, everything will fall into place. He’s aiming for overall completion in Spring 2023 and hopes his passion project plays a crucial role in increasing traffic to downtown Kingsport.
“I think it’ll bring a lot of revenue to the city. I think it will help the restaurants and I believe it will help those wanting to come to Kingsport and open something up,” said Hunt.
It’s a sentiment that officials with the Downtown Kingsport Association share. Robin Cleary, executive director of the association, said it’s something she personally looks forward to.
“To see the State Theater purchased by someone who has this great plan for it and now to know that the contract has been awarded and construction is soon going to start to get it ready to be a great live music venue in downtown Kingsport, it’s really exciting,” Cleary said. “This will draw not just local folks to come in and enjoy this music but it will draw folks from around the region and even outside of the region.”
While he is redeveloping the space, Hunt said he does plan on keeping a lot of the historical integrity of the building. He said physical work on the building is slated to begin before the month’s end.