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General Mills building coming to life two years after fire

General Mills building in Johnson City

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. --- Two years after an arsonist caused significant damage to the General Mills building in Johnson City, the centerpiece of the West Walnut Street corridor redevelopment effort is coming to life.

Summers-Taylor, Inc. is renovating the 50,000 sq. ft. building into high-end office space for the company, and facilities for East Tennessee State University. The surrounding property will feature a hotel, local bakery, two restaurants and parking.

With a growing budget of $13 million, the General Mills building is seen by many as a catalyst for the city's redevelopment of the West Walnut Street Corridor, connecting ETSU and surrounding neighborhoods to downtown Johnson City.

"When we first came in here there were flakes of paint everywhere, there was mold, there was a lot of bad stuff," said Grant Summers, president of Summers-Taylor. "It took a little bit of seeing through that to see what it could be."

A recent study found the city will need to pay $7-10 million for infrastructure enhancements along Walnut Street as part of the project. Johnson City commissioners have expressed a willingness to move forward with funding the project.

"There was a lot of blight here that needed to be taken care of, and now that that's happening, every thing is moving along probably a lot quicker than we had anticipated," said Dianna Cantler, director of the Johnson City Development Authority.

Summers hopes the mill will be ready for move in some time late next year.

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