JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In the past decade, downtown Johnson City has blossomed with new businesses, housing, and shared green spaces, but there’s still plenty of work to do.
A number of revitalization projects are currently in the works right now, but one of the biggest undertakings in terms of developments might be ‘The Henry on Main’ property.
The Henry on Main consists of the old Hands-On Museum, JC Penney building, and Sears building that have sat empty for quite some time. However, the time has come to change that. Shane Abraham, a developer and president of Univeral Companies is leading the charge on The Henry space and said they’ve made significant progress so far.
Apartments have been constructed with tenants having moved in earlier this year.
With downtown Johnson City rapidly growing, there’s a great need for more housing options, retail and office spaces in the downtown area, and it’s a need Abraham hopes to accommodate.
Officials with the Johnson City Development Authority are also excited about this project and what it means for downtown.
Dianna Cantler, the executive director of the JCDA, said the buildings that make up The Henry on Main property take up almost a full block, and revitalizing them would be a great asset to the downtown area.
“We’ve got great restaurants, now the thing that we’re lacking is more retail and service businesses, so our goal with this grant and the JCDA’s goal is to fill those first floor spaces,” said Cantler.
Cantler is referring to a place-making grant the JCDA received in February of 2020, but due to COVID, officials with the state have been more lenient as to when it can be used, and now, especially with The Henry property is a perfect time, according to Cantler.
“We have received a place-making grant from the State of Tennessee for economic and community development, to help subsidize the rent for someone to open a retail incubator,” she said.
The grant is up to $30,000 for the first 12 months of rent, acting as a lease reimbursement that runs on a sliding scale. Cantler said it’s a great way to start a business with less risk as well as an incentive to get tenants onto the first floor of The Henry property.
Shane Abraham told News Channel 11 the plan was brought before the Johnson City Commission in 2019, with initial demolition beginning in early 2020.
Once the architectural design and engineering were completed, the first phase was put into motion, wrapping up earlier this year.
As a part of the first phase, three retail establishments Levels Barbershop, Vibes Nails and Lotion bar, and Flashback Heat act as the first tenants of The Henry on Main in addition to five residential lofts complete and already occupied.
As a part of phase two, Abraham said they plan to build 29 more residential units that are currently in the early design phases as well as work on getting retailers for the ground floor.
“It’ll be dramatic what happens with the old Hands-On and the whole JC Penney space so we’re really excited about that and what’s going to take place with all the new glasswork, and the painting and things that are really going to bring it back to life,” said Abraham.
He said demolition will be getting underway in the coming weeks where a majority of the work will be done on the interior and to the exterior facade.
With about 90,000 square feet of potential, he hopes to have the residential and exterior work completed this calendar year.
“Within this calendar year, you could see ground floor tenants in the Sears and Hands-On buildings, we’d really like to see that take place certainly in the next 18 months but that’s just up to the market and the incentives out there and how attractive Downtown Johnson City is for new businesses,” he said.
While the pandemic does pose challenges, Abraham said he works with a great team and has had a number of potential tenants already reach out about getting involved in the project.