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Standard Knitting Mill Proposal

By Bill Lyons, Sun, 2019/12/15 - 4:57pm

There has been a nice discussion about the Standard Knitting Mill proposal over at the Compass Colloquy FB group site. I posted the following there and would like to share it with the Knoxviews family who may not be members of that group.

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Recently many have raised a lot of issues and concerns regarding the redevelopment of the Standard Knitting Mill site. This is understandable and appreciated as it provides a good opportunity to address these from the point of view of our team at the City.

Let’s start with a bit of background. This privately held property has gradually deteriorated over decades through a variety of owners While many have seen its potential, this potential has been overshadowed by its many liabilities. Its proximity to an active rail line negatively impacts residential options. Parking is a significant challenge. It has extensive environment issues adding to the cost of repair and construction. However the greatest problem has been with its access. As Peter Davis of WRS put it at our meeting on Thursday, this is a “Statue of Liberty property - very visible but hard to get to.

It has been clear to us and to potential owners and developers that this property would remain a blight on the Parkridge neighborhood and beyond for a very long time unless there was significant public sector participation in any development plan. The market, left to its own devices, would not yield a positive outcome. The benefits of any plan could not overcome the associated costs and risks. In this case the externalities associated with this market failure are very negative. The property would remain undeveloped and eventually lead to the destruction of an historically meaningful structure. The environmental issues would remain unabated.

The policy in place at the City created under the Haslam administration and expanded upon a bit under Mayor Rogero is to involve the public sector in such situations through a two pronged test. (1) - Is the development in the public interest to a degree that would justify public support? and (2) Can we be assured that the development would not take place “but for” the support?

The former is not subject to a formulaic approach, but rather a holistic evaluation involving multiple factors. The latter is an economic evaluation involving cost, projected income, and risk. In recent years we have employed the services of an out of town firm with no connections to Knoxville or any potential developer to ascertain whether what level of deferral of new taxes makes the project viable. We refer any developer who approaches us to this policy.

With the nature of the property and its challenges along with applicable policy in mind, we can return to the time when WRS first contacted the city earlier this year, They let us know that they were in negotiation to purchase the property from the now-previous owner. We had previously met many times with a number of former owners’ representatives but none had made much progress toward a development solution.

We were very impressed with WRS’s vision for Standard Knitting Mill. Their approach saved and rehabilitated the historic building. They were willing to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to studying environmental contamination and to spend much more during construction if the issues were resolvable. Their plan was for retail, residential, and office with sensitivity to the surrounding community. Their vision for access involved an outstanding, multi-modal design, greatly increasing bicycle and pedestrian connectivity to the Parkridge community. Their parking could be accomplished on the present rubble yard property. They also recognized the opportunities to work with the city to provide a more open greenspace at Ridley Helton field.

WRS continued their negotiations with the owner during which time we agreed to the following. We would pursue making the rubble yard available, most likely through a long term lease. We agreed to shared funding , with the city’s cost capped at 3.5m, for the new road, the cost of which would range from 5m - 6m. We also agreed to support the application for a PILOT but emphasized that it would involve a third party review and ultimate Council and Commission approval. Of course the expenditures for the road and arrangement for parking would also necessitate Council approval. We pushed back on the original design for the boulevard to ensure that it would not adversely affect the historic field layout.

Mayor Rogero has made the Standard Knitting Mill’s successful redevelopment a priority for her administration and been heavily involved in these efforts. We have worked closely with Councilwoman McKenzie as we approached these negotiations. We fully briefed Mayor-elect Kincannon after the election to make sure she could support the commitments. We then awaited the closure of the property purchase for $4m after which we immediately made the contours of the arrangement public and sought to schedule a public presentation at the earliest possible date.

The above underscores a few points. First, cities are structured under state law as municipal corporations. While of course a city’s main task is providing services, we are also empowered by state legislation and our home rule charter to represent the public interest in situations like we face with the Standard Knitting Mill redevelopment. In such cases the developer approaches the City with the prospect of significant private investment with not insignificant risk in an important project that also necessitates significant city commitment. As we respond to such requests we evaluate the degree to which the City’s investments are necessary for a successful outcome. Either side can walk away, with the result a continuation of the status quo. We have used this approach with success to aid the revival of the city core.

Our approach under Mayor Rogero, as it has been under Mayors Haslam and Brown, is to find the point of common interest while realizing the other party’s ability to walk away from the project. The neighborhood and the City will benefit greatly from the WRS. development at a very reasonable commitment of public dollars. The developer benefits from the ability to realize a successful project which should represent a reasonable return on their investment commensurate with the significant risk associated with the unknowns of the economy, the business cycle, and retail, residential, and office demand. Finally, there is real political risk because of needed administration, Council, and, for the PILOT, County Commission approvals.

The City’s risk is minimal and far less than that of the developer. But that is as it should be.. Private sector decisions are made on a risk / reward basis. If everything works out perfectly the project could yield a good return on investment. But there is always risk that the development will lose money or fail completely. However, there is no risk to the City with the PILOT; it keeps taxes where they are. If the project does not occur we are no worse off than we are now. The new road is a plus that will facilitate future development if this project fails.

On the other hand, failing to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome has very real risk to the City. Failed negotiations would mean continuation of the blight and failure to create the jobs that the construction would bring. It would mean the loss of the jobs associated with the functioning retail and office sectors. It would mean losing the opportunity to provide an environmentally clean site with lingering and likely increasing environmental justice issues for a neighborhood with many lower income residents.

I hope this case study provides a bit of a glimpse into this situation from the point of view of those of us on the public side as we sought a solution for this very important site. Apologies for the lengthy post. Thanks for your patience.

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City changes plans for Caswell Park

By Rachel, Fri, 2019/12/13 - 12:38pm

Read the link to the Mayor's letter. It's easier to follow than the story itself.

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Kudos to Knox Co. Election Commisson for converting to paper ballots

By R. Neal, Fri, 2019/12/13 - 8:32am

Compass reports that the Knox County Election Commission has decided to move to voter verifiable optically scanned paper ballots in time for the Aug. 2020 general election.

Compass quotes Election Administrator Cliff Rodgers as saying that fears raised by Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election prompted the Republican and Democratic parties, the League of Women Voters, the media and others to call for at least a paper trail to verify electronic voting. Instead of just a paper trail, Knox County will switch to paper ballots.

Kudos to Election administrator Cliff Rodgers and the Knox County Election Commission for making elections more secure. More at Compass (subscription required).

Unfortunately, Blount County recently announced that they are also replacing their cumbersome dial-operated machines (the same machines being replaced in Knox County) with touchscreen voting machines. These machines are more error prone in terms of registering voter intent and do not have any voter verifiable or auditable paper trail.

One concern of paper ballot systems is the cost of printing and storing paper ballots. According to the Compass report, Election Administrator Cliff Rogers is more concerned about "a secure system that people have confidence in." Sadly, election officials in Blount County do not share this view.

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Annual MLK Kids & Families Fair!

By Janus, Thu, 2019/12/12 - 3:30pm


What: Annual MLK Kids & Families Fair!
When: Saturday, January 18, 2020 - 1:00pm
Where: Blount County Public Library

The fourth annual MLK Kids and Families Fair will take place on Saturday, January 18 from 1-3 pm at the Blount County Public Library.
The drop-in style fair – with tables sponsored by community organizations such as Blount County United, Blount County Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Alcoa-Blount NAACP, and several local schools – provides an opportunity for children and families to learn more about the work and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fair features activities related to race and identity, the historical and modern context of race/racism in the United States, and how all people can work together to promote racial justice. Interpreting will be available in Spanish, Japanese, and American Sign Language at the event. For more information, contact Heather McMahon at heather.mcmahon@maryvillecollege.edu

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Kincannon announces cabinet hires

By R. Neal, Mon, 2019/12/09 - 10:44am

WATE reports...

Police, fire chiefs and law director retained. David Brace will stay on as Chief Operating Officer. Stephanie Welch will be Chief of Economic & Community Development. Erin Gill, will serve as Chief Policy Officer. Bill Lyons will stay on through the transition.

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Vols going to the Gator Bowl!

By bizgrrl, Mon, 2019/12/09 - 10:42am

The Vols will face off against Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. on January 2 at 7 pm.

First bowl game since 2016.

Tennessee is 7-5 for the season.
Indiana is 8-4 for the season.

Go Vols!

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Ancient Lore no more

By R. Neal, Mon, 2019/12/09 - 6:28am

Compass reports that Tom Boyd has canceled plans for an Ancient Lore Village attraction at his South Knoxville property. Instead, his company will pursue building the resorts in "established tourism areas." Plans for the South Knoxville property have shifted to a more park-like setting with short term rentals and possibly a wedding venue. More at Compass (subscription required).

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Impeachment, impeachment, impeachment

By bizgrrl, Sat, 2019/12/07 - 8:02am

If you haven't been following the news even a little bit, the president is facing impeachment. From what I have watched and read they have lots of evidence. But, those that defend the president say it is okay or all lies. How have so many given up on the constitution and the responsibilities of the president? Lamar Alexander is one who should be standing up for our country and the people. We'll see how many U.S. Senators stand up for the constitution and the people. It cannot be right for a president to take actions to his benefit instead of the country.

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TN Gov. Lee relying on being in the bible belt

By bizgrrl, Wed, 2019/12/04 - 5:37pm

Lee said he prays that Tennessee does not experience a school shooting, that the state’s opioid epidemic will diminish and that Tennessee’s educational outcomes improve. If thousands of people offer similar prayers, he believes God will impart his favor on Tennessee.

So much for separation of church and state.

I have no problem with praying. I do have a problem with people expecting positive results without taking any action.

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Ford is turning McDonald's coffee waste into headlights

By jbr, Wed, 2019/12/04 - 4:23pm

Starting this year, Ford is incorporating coffee chaff — coffee bean skin that comes off during the roasting process — into the plastic headlamp housing used in some cars.

Coffee chaff, on the other hand, is widely available, Miewelski said, and much of it goes to waste. Eventually, Ford hopes to incorporate the material into more cars and use it for more parts.

Ford is turning McDonald's coffee waste into headlights

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Knoxville Standard Knitting Mill site to be turned into mixed-use development

By jbr, Tue, 2019/12/03 - 1:16pm

WRS Inc., its local partners and city officials will brief residents on plans to convert the 435,667-square-foot property into a mixed-use development on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 2:30 p.m. The briefing will be held at the Pellissippi State Community College Magnolia Avenue campus.

Knoxville Standard Knitting Mill site to be turned into mixed-use development

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Death of the apostrophe

By R. Neal, Mon, 2019/12/02 - 7:32am

"The ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!"

(link...)

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Submit comments-TN Medicaid block grants

By bizgrrl, Fri, 2019/11/29 - 7:39pm

TennCare II - Amendment 42: Block Grant
We encourage the public to submit their comments on Medicaid.gov as they relate to demonstrations open for public comments. In support of transparency and open government, all public comments received are immediately posted and are in the public domain. Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services staff will review all public comments posted and we reserve the discretion to delete comments that are generally understood as any of the following: obscene, profane, threatening, or or otherwise inappropriate.

Open for Public Comment – 11/27/19 – 12/27/19

More from the Tennessean.

...give state officials more authority to decide who is covered, what services are provided and how much the state will pay for them.

TANF funds (block grants) go unused, in Tennessee and elsewhere

State withholding even more funds for needy families

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Deaths among middle-aged adults reversing life expectancy trends

By jbr, Thu, 2019/11/28 - 6:21pm

The largest decreases in life expectancy (based on AAPC for 2010-2016) occurred in New Hampshire, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio, West Virginia, South Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, Indiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017

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Happy Thanksgiving!

By bizgrrl, Thu, 2019/11/28 - 5:54am

A little Thanksgiving humor.

Then there is the "crash course to help everyone get along at the table this holiday season."

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My hierarchy of needs for a Democratic presidential nominee

By R. Neal, Wed, 2019/11/27 - 5:04pm

Here's what I've decided is important. In order:

1. Qualifications
2. Political skills
3. People skills
4. Alignment with my policy views
5. Competent campaign and messaging
6. Can beat Trump

I would have included "trustworthy," but we're talking about politicians (LOL). I realize #6 is #1 for a lot of people. But #1 through #5 accomplish #6. Assuming America has any residual rational thinking and/or patriotic values left. Oh, wait.

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How cities are using technology to solve their trash problems

By jbr, Wed, 2019/11/27 - 12:04pm

"Nice work" to Sevier County on their waste management techniques mentioned earlier on Knoxviews.

Also appreciate the Knoxville and Knox County folks that deal with trash.

Some additional technologies cities are using around the world

How cities are using technology to solve their trash problems

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Local Little Library users don't like Leon Uris?

By bizgrrl, Wed, 2019/11/27 - 7:30am

My book donation has been rejected by the Little Library users.

About 6 months ago they setup a Little Library at Springbrook Park in Alcoa, TN. When the books looked low, I decided to pick out some of our books for donating to the cause. All of the books we donated have been taken, except for A God in Ruins by Leon Uris.

From a 1999 Los Angeles Times book review, "A Diatribe Against Politics, Guns, Money".

It doesn't appear this is one of his best books, but hey it's Leon Uris. I'm thinking it is the title that is scaring readers away. Maybe it is just too old and no one knows Leon Uris anymore. Or, is it the anti-Semitism? Oh, well.

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Rain gardens installed at North Knoxville library are a natural way to absorb rainwater

By jbr, Tue, 2019/11/26 - 11:45pm

Looks like a good idea

"It catches rainwater runoff from the rooftop and instead of diverting it to the stream it absorbs into the ground kind of like a natural sponge. the way the landscape used to be before we came in with our rooftop and pavement," said Ludwig.

Rain Gardens installed

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Bubba's new corndog rankings

By R. Neal, Tue, 2019/11/26 - 4:38pm

New corndog ranking:

1. Nan Denton's
2. UT Hospital cafeteria
3. Weigel's

Sorry Weigel's, you got bumped.

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