Sen. Blackburn meets with local officials on Walnut St. development, NETN tourism

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Johnson City is making progress on a multi-million dollar project to redevelop a road connecting East Tennessee State University to the downtown area.

Friday, Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn met with local city and county officials to talk about updates to the West Walnut Street corridor project. The meeting was held at one of the street’s first major building renovations, the Model Mill.

“This is something that is going to bring people in to the area. When they come in they are going to be spending their money and that is a really good thing. It also encourages entrepreneurship in the area, with the new buildings like the Model Mill,” said Senator Blackburn.

The city has invested $33 million in the project. The primary work underway now is on West State of Franklin Rd., which runs parallel to Walnut Street. Crews are replacing sewer lines, resulting in traffic detours for drivers.

“The underground work has already begun and really a lot of the project is actually underground. The pretty stuff will happen at the end. The streetscapes and the plants, the things that will make that corridor special,” said Washington County, Tennessee Mayor Joe Grandy.

Discussions at Friday’s meeting included historical preservation in the district and the importance of revitalization when it comes to keeping young professionals in Johnson City.

“When you have a healthy, vibrant economy that is going to help you have happier residents, it is going to attract business, you are going to have people stay. Students are going to finish school and they are going to stay in that community. That’s what we like,” said Blackburn.

The Senator was also updated on economic development in the area, including the Washington County Industrial Park which continues to attract a host of international businesses. In addition, she spoke with officials on bringing more tourism to upper Northeast Tennessee.

“The most visited park in our national park system is the Smokies. What we need is for people to venture out into the communities that surround the Smokies.”

The Walnut Street project is estimated for completion in two years.

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