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April 23, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Meet the developer behind three big Downtown Maryville projects

All are designed to help the city attract and retain talent by revitalizing the downtown that includes much needed housing to attract retail.

James Tomiczek has been a part of the East Tennessee community for more than three decades, moving here after earning his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech University.

During that journey that has lasted more than 30 years, he’s had a variety of roles – working as Site Manager for Bechtel National, Inc. in Oak Ridge on environmental clean-up, opening the Sevierville office of the company now known as Barge Design Solutions, and launching his own firm in 2002 named VISION Engineering and Development Services Inc. before merging it into Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. (CEC) in 2014. Tomiczek served for the next eight-plus years as a CEC Vice President.

Today, he’s back on his own as a solopreneur, leading a development firm named VISION Property Services LLC which has embarked on three different projects that are designed to help the City of Maryville attract and retain talent by revitalizing the downtown.

We sat down recently at his combination office and home on Cates Street which is adjacent to one of the three projects he is developing and just a few blocks from the other two. We wanted to know about the projects as well as his passion for the cause.

“The part of engineering that I’ve always enjoyed is the development side . . . concept planning, funding, etc.,” Tomiczek told us. “At the end of 2021, I realized this was what I needed to do,” so he began extracting himself from CEC in 2022.

As Chair of the Economic Vitality Committee of the Maryville Downtown Association (MDA), he’s fully on board with the importance of creating the “downtown vibe” that will help the community and its employers attract the talent they need and keep them there. Tomiczek’s projects involve both much-needed residential – 30 condos in total – and a jumpstart on new retail to provide the types of services that the new residents expect and need.

The most noticeable of his three projects in terms of progress is The Mill House at Pistol Creek (pictured above) which is behind Downtown Maryville’s well-known Vienna Coffee Company. The property was purchased from the City of Maryville after a competitive request for proposal process.

“There are six one-bedroom and six two-bedroom condos under construction right now, and they should be ready by July,” Tomiczek says. Phase 2 will include two more buildings, bringing the total housing to 20 units. All but three of the condos in Phase 1 had been sold when we last checked.

The second project is named the William Bennett Scott Building and involves additional housing as well as some retail and an office. Located on Broadway Avenue, Maryville’s main downtown street, the development includes five one-bedroom and five two-bedroom condos. The two-bedroom units will have private rooftop gardens for the residents. The building also has a restaurant and bar on the ground floor in addition to a small office.

This project presents some development challenges since it will front a parking garage that is accessed from East Harper Avenue but will be connected to the William Bennett Scott development. In a recent article in The Daily Times, Tomiczek explained that the garage wasn’t built to sustain the lateral loads that will be imposed on it by the new building, so the design includes the installation of a helical pier foundation system to transfer loads below the existing parking garage.

He plans to begin construction soon.

The final project that is across Cates Street from Tomiczek’s residence is named Greenway Village. Located on about three acres of property on either side of the city’s greenway from Highland Avenue to the city’s amphitheater park (behind the courthouse), the multi-building development will have the feel of a small, intimate village with commercial uses (retail, restaurant, bar) on the bottom floors of the buildings and offices or short-term rental units on the top floors.

Two tenants have been announced. One is named Fighting Scot’s Public House, a “tip of the hat” to Maryville College and its Scottish heritage. The other is a new clothing boutique named Revenge the Label. Tomiczek hopes to attract an ice cream and cookie shop, a breakfast place, a specialty food store, and another restaurant as well as some office tenants. His intent is to create a destination place along the city’s greenway.

Greenway Village is a particularly personal project for the developer. He and long-time Maryville attorney David Black first started discussing how they could develop the property they owned around Cates Street in 2005 or 2006. After Black retired, Tomiczek acquired the property following the development of a plan that managed to save all of the existing historic properties on-site, a key factor in Black’s decision to sell the property. That plan evolved further over time, particularly after Tomiczek shared the plan with a half-dozen “20-somethings” in an effort to make sure the project was appealing to the younger generations – a group that is the target for the MDA.

“They provided some good suggestions,” he said, and their input resulted in substantive changes. If everything stays on schedule, Tomiczek plans to start site work in August.

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