New downtown master plan in the works; Kingsport taking public input
KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Kingsport's development services team is building a new downtown master plan, which will help determine how the city will grow itself over the next decade. For nearly the past 20 years, Kingsport has been operating from the same city master plan. Retail development and landscaping citywide were a part of it. "We will take the best elements of those previous plans, incorporate that into the new plan," Kingsport Development Services Director Lynn Tully said. "This is a living document; we want to address what the current needs are." Developing new businesses in the downtown could help stabilize or even lower taxes. "Downtowns really provide the best economic bang for the buck," Tully said. "So when you invest public money, you can typically receive more in property taxes and sales taxes." Business owners said that the area near Sullivan Street particularly needs development. "I would like to see more foot traffic, of course, in this area, and that comes with more retail," Artiques owner Martha Funke said. One business owner says the city should even convert vacant buildings into retail outlets or malls. "Because a lot of small businesses can't afford a big rent," Hook & Ladder Moonshine co-owner Drew Draper. "They can't afford 2,000 square feet. They can afford 400 to 500 square feet, and make it a dollar a square foot. That'll give them the opportunity to put something small in and actually boost the economy in this area." Tully said city employees are listening. "Having a well-balanced mix of uses, whether they're retail, restaurant, commercial, office, as well as housing downtown, all of those things in a good balance create a very vibrant downtown, and I think everybody sees that," Tully said. "So they're all asking for the same things." The city's development team will hold a two-day public meeting beginning on November 28 at the Kingsport higher education center. Citizens may drop in and offer input, and consultants will be there to draw concept designs based on the feedback they get. Kingsport officials have also created a survey where you can give feedback on the downtown. You can take that survey here.