I want to stray off of the beaten path of real estate and discuss a few things that are taking place here in Kingsport, as well as voice my opinion in regard to changes I would love to see take place.
Around this time last year, an article in the Times-News prompted me to contact Lea Ann Rasar, Director of Move 2 Kingsport. The article highlighted an influx of young, culturally diverse professionals that were relocating to the area. Specifically, the article stated that 1 out of every 7 new Kingsport residents fit the aforementioned criteria. Therefore, why is it that city leaders, retail recruiters and community event organizers seem to have such difficulty catering to this trend?
Believe me, I am an avid supporter of buying locally. However, when the aisles and shelves of local clothing stores are stocked with regular/classic fit shirts, baggy slacks with more pleats than a Scottish kilt and suits that Perry Mason wore during his suits on 50’s television then I’m forced to exercise one of two shopping options: out of town or online.
The Fort Henry Mall has to be revamped–and I mean completely. “Hey, that’s the Kingsport Town Center, now.” Wrong. Until the gigantic illuminated red letters on the facade of the building clearly stating “Fort Henry Mall” come down then I’m not calling it any differently. Anything can change its name, but until a reputation follows suit then no change has occurred. Since the empty-promised proposal years ago that was supposed to bring in a food court, contemporary glass and brick facades, “monumental” entrances, new retail, etc. the only changes that have taken place have been businesses leaving. Now, if the new movie theater/entertainment complex is the catalyst the Fort Henry Mall needs then I’ll eat my crow. However, bumper cars and laser tag do not solve the pressing problem of a lack in retail.
Three to five years ago downtown seemed to be heading in the right direction: dilapidated buildings had been converted into loft apartments, restaurants were becoming prevalent (12 Bones, Cafe Blu, Stir Fry, Kingsport Grocery) and there was some semblance of night life with music acts on Broad St., The Bus Pit and the aforementioned restaurants.
Fast-forward a few years later and only one restaurant remains (Stir Fry) which, consequently,
doubles up triples-up as the only place downtown to get a happy hour cocktail and/or enjoy live music. Bluegrass on Broad and Twilight Alive still seem to be doing well but they have failed to progressively bring in bigger acts over the years, as anticipated.
What is going on with the State Theatre? What should be the nucleus of downtown Kingsport is actually more of a lysosome, sitting there accumulating waste and debris. My suggestion??? Check out The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC. The newly constructed parking garage and free downtown parking could accommodate traffic, heavy foot traffic would be present at least two/three days/nights per week which would be palatable to current/potential business owners downtown and with eventual growth, the need for downtown housing would arise.
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on this because too much has been spent already. Racks by the Tracks and Oktoberfest have both been huge successes and since the two take place in completely different seasons then there’s no competition, right? Wrong. For God’s sake, it’s $2,800! Get over it. Why not cross-promote your events? It’s called fusion marketing and it’s a damn successful means of guerrilla marketing. In other words, benefit from one another before you ruin it for everybody.
Kingsport now has a population of over 50,000 people, an interchange of two major Interstate highways (81 and 26), one of the highest-rated convention centers in the South and a Fortune 500 company in Eastman. Also, when combined with MSA of Johnson City the resulting population parallels that of Huntsville, AL, Chattanooga, TN, Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC, among many other mid-major cities.
Check out their entertainment/retail hubs:
Huntsville, AL: Bridge Street
Chattanooga, TN: Hamilton Place
Asheville, NC: Downtown Asheville
Knoxville, TN: Turkey Creek
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