Transformation of a hotel into apartments in progress near the Johnson City shopping center | WJHL
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — With extremely high housing demand and Johnson City in a pattern of high population growth, even an underutilized hotel in a good location can become an attractive target for redevelopment.
That’s exactly what’s happening at the former Econolodge on Mountcastle Street in Johnson City, where Universal Development & Construction is busy gutting the nearly 40-year-old building before a renovation into 57 one-bedroom units and seven one-bedroom units. two rooms.
UDC founder Shane Abraham said the apartment hotel project is only the second his company has undertaken. Much more often, the group develops on a vacant lot.
“We’ve converted another hotel into an apartment building in South Carolina, so it’s new to physically tear it down from a renovation, from a (demolition) perspective down to almost the bones and bring it back like a true residential apartment building,” Abraham mentioned.
UDC announced its plans last August and said it hoped to complete the conversion by the spring of 2022. In addition to standard rezoning, design and financing timelines, that timeline has been affected by labor shortages. labor and supply chain issues.
Now, Abraham said the goal is to have “The Hub,” as the resort will be called, online by the end of the summer. He expects the apartments, whose rental prices will cover electricity and internet service, will appeal to young professionals.
“Maybe we’re not ready to buy yet or maybe between houses, that’s kind of what we’re looking for here,” he said. That’s the kind of population that fills many of the more than 200 apartments the UDC recently built less than a mile behind Johnson City’s Mockingbird Mall in Johnson City.
Abraham said the project is 100% occupied, as are many resorts around the Tri-Cities and as he fully expects The Hub to be.
“Of all the concerns we have, addressing them is not the issue, absolutely. Getting it built within the budget that we can justify, that’s the challenge.
The importance of infill in a growing city
Despite this challenge, Abraham said he was happy to do another “infill” project. This one is even more complex than the Mockingbird, which packed many units into a space surrounded largely by commercial properties, but didn’t include the added challenge of renovating a building.
“We think it’s a great use, the city felt like it was a great use and so to take a tired property and put it on the rent lists at a much higher value and from him provide the useful life that Johnson City residents need,” he said.
“For us from a development point of view, high visibility, we think we’re going to give it a great look. A very nice life experience and very central, so it kind of checks all the boxes if we can get it removed.
Abraham said infilling, especially using existing buildings, is difficult.
“It’s one of those things that we’ve learned whenever we think we’re buying it cheap enough to do something like that, it’s always surprises when you peel the layers off. And so we tried that on other markets it’s just hard to find the buildings and be able to cover the cost of renovations to be able to make it work from a residential perspective, so this is the only one we’ve found so far.
Whether it’s the conversion of Econolodge, UDC’s renovation of two former downtown department stores into “The Henry on Main” apartments, or the work of other developers, Abraham said the repurposing of ‘old properties and old buildings in the original footprint of the city is an important strategy.
“I think it shows how proactive our community is,” Abraham said. “And it’s happening all over the city. You see it downtown, it kind of shows how vibrant our region is. I think that’s really important and that’s part of the reason people are drawn to come here.
Asked about new city manager Cathy Ball’s projection that Johnson City could grow to 20,000 people over the next decade, Abraham didn’t push back.
“We’re surrounded by markets that still have a lot more growth than that, when you look at western North Carolina, northern South Carolina, Knoxville,” he said.
“I think you get a lot of turnover now that people have had the ability to work a little more remotely, they may have had life-changing experiences where they want to come into a less crowded area and Johnson City just really check a lot of those boxes.
He pointed to Washington County’s growth rates in the early 2000s of up to 1,000 people a year, much of it in Johnson City. “To get that to 1,500 a year over 10 years, I could do that. Yeah. I might be able to see that.
Ball told News Channel 11 that growth must come with careful planning. Abraham agreed and said he believed Johnson City could pursue a more controlled approach than some metros that have grown rapidly over the past five to 10 years.
“I think that’s a good thing, so hopefully we can all do our part to…not overrun the track with too much development, but have enough infrastructure to be ready for that if we get a increase in population, this can be done in a way that is responsible.
Abraham said he hopes some of that growth will continue to happen in the city’s existing core.
“We are looking for those special lands that allow you to do that. They are more difficult, sometimes they are more difficult to make than the field that is in the growth zone, but if you can put them together, they can turn into special projects.