JC Commission approves plan for transformation of U-Haul, Kelly Foods properties

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – For years, Johnson City leaders have been working to reduce the flooding problem downtown.

The city has already taken steps with the creation of Founders Park, which serves as a park, event space, and water retention basin.

Now, the city is looking to transform two other downtown properties to do more than just hold floodwaters.

The Johnson City Commission voted Thursday to move forward with a plan that would transform the former Kelly Foods and U-Haul properties.

“We’ve seen a major impact from founders park. We know we have a similar opportunity with this basin if its designed properly,” Ralph Van Brocklin, Mayor of Johnson City, told News Channel 11.

The Public Works Department consulted with two engineering firms to work on the design for both properties.

“Downtown is energetic, it is alive, it is the place to invest, and we want to make sure that what we do further encourages that investment,” said Phil Pindzola, Director of the Public Works Department.

DRAINAGE BASIN)_AHAThe plan approved by the commission Thursday will create a green space at the Kelly Foods property, and a multi-functional, environmentally-friendly space where U-Haul once stood.

“Taking water off the adjoining property rooftops, put that water in cisterns to water the lawns, we want solar power to power up the site. These are educational tools consistent with what hands on is doing, consistent with what the library teaches in their programs during the summer,” Pindzola said.

“You have solar elements, you have wind elements, you have water elements, you have energy elements. I think that type of concept works really well because you have an educational opportunity not just simply a water retention opportunity,” Van Brocklin said.

Pindzola said the park will also feature interactive attractions. “Van Gogh lighting in the sidewalks, LED lighting and mixing light and water so that you actually have an attraction in the evening.”

Van Brocklin said the completion of these two projects will create a corridor from the Kelly Foods property all the way to the library, further enhancing downtown revitalization, all while keeping major flooding at bay.

The projects will also create more than 100 additional parking spaces downtown.

The city already has $1 million in storm water funds to construct the basic infrastructure of the drainage basins. Officials plan to reach out to donors to help fund other parts of the project. Crews will begin work on Monday.

Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.

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