West Walnut Street redevelopment underway through city work and business expansion

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Downtown Johnson City has been a hotbed for development and new businesses over the past decade and it’s time for even further redevelopment on the opposite side of State of Franklin Road.

While Market Street and Main Street continue to attract both locals and visitors alike, city officials hope that’s in store for the future of the West Walnut Street corridor as well.

The city has invested $33 million specifically for laying the foundation for the revitalization of the corridor connecting East Tennessee State University and Downtown Johnson City.

The ground has already been broken by city crews on the project and currently, the eastbound lane of West State of Franklin Road is closed at Sevier Street to just beyond Ernest Street for several weeks as crews replace waterlines.

According to the project design and construction coordinator, Rick Kilgore, right now crews are taking care of critical areas first such as stormwater and sewer work then moving up to conduits and street work following the completion of the first phases.

He said the project’s estimated completion is two years but factors such as weather and ‘surprises’ while working could slow that timeline down slightly.

“There’s stuff that has been in here for 5 decades, we don’t exactly know everything that’s in here. We’re already finding stuff we didn’t know about so that type of stuff will slow the project down a little bit,” said Kilgore.

Kilgore said they will also be improving Ashe Street in the process, but overall, he’s excited to see what this project does for this area of downtown.

“We are already starting to hear from the business owners that they want to bring their businesses up to the standard that we want to bring to the streets. I’ve seen the plans come together as we work on this and I’m excited about it,” said Kilgore.

Meanwhile, as city crews work on revitalizing the area, local businesses are doing the same.

Tennessee Hills Brewstillery recently received its liquor license, making the property true to its name serving both beer and liquor. Owner, Stephen Callahan, said they’re also working on a number of projects in that area in terms of expansion.

He said down the street they’re working on a production facility for their products, on-site they’re building a new tasting room and gift shop, and adjacent from the Brewstillery will be a music venue that will run in partnership with musicians and artists from East Tennessee State University.

“We’ll start hosting events over there to where we actually give them a venue to where they can show up and they can play to an audience and kind of make this area, the Brewstillery and the music venue, a focal point of a community gathering area,” said Callahan.

While work is underway currently for all of these projects, he estimates the stage will be completed by late October with live music soon to follow. Meanwhile, on a much faster timeline, Callahan said they will be adding a new custom food truck, ‘The Whiskey Kitchen’, starting this week.

Callahan said he’s excited to see what the city’s development plan brings to the area and he’s thrilled to be contributing to the overall redevelopment of the corridor.

“Success breeds success and once we start kind of elevating the area, I’m really excited to see what other businesses might land on the street,” said Callahan.

While the West Walnut Street corridor is the main focus of the project, some work preparing the area for the final vision will impact State of Franklin Road.

According to Kilgore, starting the week of October 11th, there will be lane bypasses in place and some closures along West State of Franklin that will impact those commuting through the area.

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