As the development of Pellissippi Place begins to clear some major hurdles this year, business leaders are already eyeing a generation ahead in planning.
When Knox and Blount counties began working with the cities of Maryville and Alcoa on a second-generation technology park in the early 2000s, following on from the Stock Creek development technology park, they knew that the parks technologies typically take half a century or more to build.
“This one had some challenges from the start,” said Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Blount Partnership.
When the Blount Partnership’s Economic Development Board acquired property developer Mike Ross’ 450 acres for Pellissippi Place, the deal included giving him the right of first refusal to develop the commercial and residential sections. Bankruptcy proceedings involving him and then a dispute between two creditors tied down this section of Pellissippi Place for a decade, until the Industrial Development Board reached a settlement in January, paying just over half a -million dollars and exchanging about 20 acres in the rear section along Wildwood Road to another.
The current goal is to break ground in the third quarter of this year on a Place Pellissippi project that combines commercial and residential development, retail on the ground floor and condominiums above. “We’re going to approach housing with our first projects,” Daniels said this month.
The second hurdle is the realignment of the planned Pellissippi Parkway extension, which was always expected to take up much of the land. However, the Tennessee Department of Transportation changed the design after installing the infrastructure for the Pellissippi Place technology section, Daniels explained. “That’s exactly where the freeway goes.”
TDOT is expected to begin acquiring the right-of-way for the project soon, which Daniels expects to pay for work already done and a new master plan. “Until they can get the right-of-way acquired and pay us the damages, we’re stuck,” he said. The commercial and residential section will be serviced by utilities from Tennessee Route 33, Old Knoxville Highway.
Daniels said new appraisals were commissioned this month to update cost estimates with current land values.
“There’s a lot of money spent developing these sites that are now being cannibalized,” he said.
The next industrial park
Most of the other industrial parks in Blount County are nearly full.
The addition of Smith & Wesson, which is expected to open in the summer of 2023, will fill Partnership Park North, and Daniels expects Partnership Park South to reach 95% occupancy this year. Opened in 1969, the Blount County Industrial Park is full, Big Springs is 98% and Stock Creek is 97%, according to Daniels.
During an April 1 presentation for the IDB to the Blount County Budget Committee, Daniels said the council was “in acquisition mode and trying to plan for the next generation of people behind me who will fill these leadership roles.” .
“We’re starting to look down our hallway at where our infrastructure is, where could we assemble an additional property not to be developed immediately,” Daniels told the budget committee. “It’s going to take a while, but we’re starting to have these discussions about where does it make sense, where is it within the limits of urban growth where we’re looking at and mainly along the four lanes.”
In a later interview with the Daily Times, he said, “We’re targeting along (US) 321, not to the mountains but to Lenoir City for our efforts.”
For the development of a new industrial park to be worthwhile, Daniels said it would have to be over 200 acres and on a four-lane road.
Expanding existing parks is also an option, but residential development is already taking up space there.
Daniels said that businesses are cyclical, expanding, growing, shrinking and disappearing.
“Everything has a life cycle, and we’re always trying to think about what the next economies and businesses will be like, and we’re trying to be very judicious in targeting businesses that have opportunities that we don’t have here right now. “, he said.
“The community is not going to stop growing,” he said, but business parks can define where businesses will be.
What do you want?
During the Budget Committee workshop, Daniels noted that the IDB only develops properties within the limits of urban growth.
“We’ve seen what’s happening with the narrative in the community,” he told the committee. “We think it’s smart for the county to look at rural zoning and try to figure out what we want the community to look like.”
“You can choose what you want to be. Do you want to be anywhere in the United States or do you want to make it unique to what we have here in the Smoky Mountains? So we applaud and support this whole narrative of really looking at where do we want these developments to happen, because they are going to happen,” Daniels said, adding that people move to Blount County for a variety of reasons.
“I would encourage the county to have these discussions about what we want our rural areas to be,” he said, “Urban areas, just know that if you shrink, you’re only limited to that amount of space, and as the population increases, it will suffice for your children or your children’s children.
“We don’t have a position on what makes sense for this area to be urban or non-urban. For us, I’ll tell you, anything that has a four lane nearby, that’s prime real estate for us for our future,” Daniels said.
“Going out like Wilkinson Pike or to the mountains or something like that, no, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to encourage what we’re doing in those areas. We really look at these major thoroughfares for what we do,” he told the Budget Committee.
“We are not going to remain just a farming community,” he said, adding that he is not encouraging people to abandon their farms. “Whether we do anything more or not, there will be continued development in the area, and I think it’s the role of the county to really have those discussions about what you want it to look like.”
Daniels often says that Blount County turns away more business than it brings in. “We don’t recruit fireplaces,” he said during the interview this month. “It’s not a nuisance to the community.”
During the budget workshop, Daniels said, “As far as the community is concerned, our goal has been to be the employment destination for the region. This is what we want to be. We know that not all people are going to live in Blount County, and we’ve never had that assumption.
Instead, the assumption is that people would commute from all over the region — Loudon, Monroe, Sevier and Knox, to Campbell County, he told the budget committee.
“We see that. For us, this is a good thing, because they will use the services of the counties in which they are,” he said. “That’s why we are strategic in the location of our business parks, that they are easily accessible to the main infrastructure that we have.”
He told the Budget Committee that with activity over the past year or so, “You’ve got about half a billion – that’s with a B – dollars of capital investment that’s committed to be made and that you see underway and under construction in our community.”
Daniels said he currently thinks Blount County has a good mix of businesses. “The amount of revenue they bring in and come back in the form of taxes to our community helps us enjoy a high quality of life that many communities would love to have,” he said in the interview.
“They pay a lot of the freight of living here,” he said, and they’re also philanthropically engaged in the community. “This community wouldn’t stand for anything else,” Daniels said.