Although material costs and supply chain disruptions have been common complaints among builders in recent months, businesses are still watching downtown Johnson City with interest.
On East Main Street, developers Shane Abraham and Philip Cox are making progress on a mixed-use project called The Henry. The partners purchased four city buildings in 2019 for $600,000, including three structures that housed downtown department stores.
When completed, the project will include commercial tenants on the first floor and 34 apartments, which will charge rents ranging from around $895 for a small one-bedroom house to $1,800 for a large three-bedroom unit.
So far, five companies have moved into – or are in the process of moving into – storefronts associated with the project.
Further down the road, at 202 E. Main St., the owners of The Black Olive hope to open their Italian restaurant’s third location in downtown Johnson City this spring. Another restaurant, Juan Siao, will go to a new building constructed at 104 Tipton St.
More and more retailers are also popping up downtown. Two businesses, The Generalist and Hometown Cottage, recently received a grant that will help them create shopping experiences where local designers can exhibit and show off their wares.
Tish Oldham, who took over as executive director of the Johnson City Development Authority on February 7, said people appreciated the mixed-use opportunities.
“They like to be able to be somewhere they can go to work and … go nearby and ride their bikes or walk and use the neighborhoods around them,” Oldham said. “There is a new trend in this direction. There has been a change. »
The downtown development is about more than encouraging shoppers to stop at a single store and buy a pair of shoes before heading home, she said.
Now, the focus is on creating an experience that gives people the opportunity to enjoy multiple attractions over a period of time. This includes investing in public places like Founders Park, King Commons Park and the Johnson City Public Library Adventure Land.
Developing properties in the city center can be difficult in part because of the age of many buildings, Oldham acknowledged, but organizations like the JADC must be prepared to streamline this process, acting as a liaison between developers real estate, the city, lenders and other potential stakeholders.
The business community is also going to have to respond to adjustments spurred by the pandemic, she said. With many employers normalizing remote work, this includes what people do during normal working hours.
“People’s shopping habits have changed,” Oldham said. “The way people spend their time has changed, so we’re going to have to take that into account.”
What attracts businesses to downtown? Oldham believes that many entrepreneurs want to be part of a main street atmosphere, where they can engage with a community of traders.
“There’s a certain vibe downtown,” she says. “People like to walk from store to store and have a place to be outside.”