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December 15, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Standing room only crowd attends forum on plans for Standard Knitting Mill redevelopment

Peter Davis, Director of Acquisitions and Development for WRS Inc., provided few additional specifics on plans for the redevelopment of the old Standard Knitting Mill facility when he spoke and took questions during a community forum last Thursday.

Held at the Magnolia Avenue campus of Pellissippi State Community College, the event attracted a standing room only crowd that included Knoxville’s outgoing Mayor (Madeline Rogero) and incoming Mayor (Indya Kincannon).

The session was moderated by Deputy Mayor Bill Lyons who said the city has interacted with at least 15 different developers interested in the site in the last 16 years. “This is the best plan we have heard,” he said, noting that city officials had met with the WRS Inc. team on multiple occasions over the past year.

“We think Knoxville is a gem of a city,” Davis said during his brief formal presentation. As he did at the “New Developments in Opportunity Zones” forum earlier in the day, Davis explained that the Mt. Pleasant, SC-based company had bought the site within the last two weeks and had only a “very high-level plan” at this stage. He was there to listen to the thoughts and concerns of community leaders and residents.

“The number of you here shows how much excitement there is” for the project, Davis said.

He described the redevelopment of the more than 430,000 square foot facility as a “Statue of Liberty project. You can see it from everywhere, but it’s hard to get to.”

According to Lyons, the city has committed to being a financial partner in building a multi-modal boulevard to provide better access and to recommend a 25-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) subject to the required evaluation by an independent third party.

In answer to a timeline question, Davis said that the site will require “substantial remediation” that will probably cost in the range of $1.5 to $2 million. Until WRS Inc. has a timeline for that work, the company cannot provide a schedule for the remainder of the redevelopment.

“We want this to be a thriving, dynamic development for everyone,” Davis said, emphasizing that included not just those who would reside in the mixed-use space but for the neighboring areas of East Knoxville.

He acknowledged that WRS Inc. “understands the historic value of the (Bill Meyer) stadium, so we will impact it as little as possible.”

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