Developers want to turn a Johnson City eye-sore into an $18.5 million apartment complex . It would go up in the old General Mills site on W. Walnut St.
Johnson City commissioners voted yes to the project in a second reading, on Thursday night. Commissioners Jeff Banyas and Jenny Brock voted to pass the ordinance, along with Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin. Vice Mayor Clayton Stout and Commissioner David Tomita voted against it.
We talked to nearby residents who told us they're worried the complex could hurt their neighborhood.
"My house is going to kind of be the front line," said Jeff Estes.
He lives only a block and a half away from the old General Mills site. Estes told us he's worried about extra traffic and noise the 216-unit complex would bring.
"The exit they have is not appropriate for that area, when you've got a school close by, when you've got streets that are a pass-through for a lot of vehicles," he explained.
Estes also thinks the developers are trying to attract more college students, who won't give the neighborhood the economic boost they were hoping for.
"If the need arises to fill space they are going to rent-by-room, which is a concern with us because they are catering to students," he said.
Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin told us the complex was meant to draw young professionals and retirees to the downtown area.
"I think the costs have escalated and now they're at the point where they realize they're going to have to open up to who they market to a little bit," Van Brocklin said.
Van Brocklin told us he's asked the developers to reconsider the rent-by-room idea. He said, either way, this is a good step towards revitalizing the area.
"I don't think it'll ever build out commercially unless you have additional residential there," said Van Brocklin.
Estes told us the neighbors will continue to discuss their options until the third reading of the ordinance.
They would like to see the property be developed into commercial businesses, he said.
Before the project can go forward, the property must be re-zoned from a B-2 (central business) zone to a B-3 (supporting central business) zone.
"The reason for the re-zoning is to allow them to build residential on the ground floor instead of having commercial on the ground floor," said Van Brocklin.
If the property remains a B-2 zone, the developers will need to have businesses in the first level of the complex. The complex can be entirely residential if it remains a B-3 zone.