Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

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August 15, 2013

Washington offers VA Lease to City of Knoxville

Knoxville — Two years after the Knoxville Veterans Alliance was awarded the opportunity to enter into an enhanced use lease (EUL) with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Knoxville campus, the KVA is offering the lease to the City of Knoxville.

James Washington, one-half of the KVA, partnered with Aubrey Wilson of Virginia, told the Journal-Express that he does not see a way forward with the lease. There have been too many conflicts with Wilson, a lack of cooperation and support, as well as other stumbling blocks with the VA, for his vision to succeed.

Washington’s goal of attempting to get the lease, since entering the fray several years ago, has been to utilize the campus to help and improve Knoxville. Originally, he had hoped that the campus would remain tax-exempt. However, since then it has been clarified that the campus would be subject to taxation as soon as the lease is signed. 

The KVA has not signed the lease, as it has been waiting to secure a subtenant that would provide enough revenue to cover the expenses associated with operating the campus. Marketing has been ongoing, but no large tenants have agreed to take over any of the buildings. 

Washington believes that if an agreement for the EUL was struck among the KVA, the VA and the City of Knoxville, with the City being the actual leaseholder, the campus could be tax-exempt. He believes that if the City had this capability, it could offer the buildings to tenants for free. 

Mike Roberts, on behalf of Washington, has met with members of the Knoxville City Council and City Manager Harold Stewart to discuss this proposal. 

“We don’t have the money to take those buildings over,” Mayor Don Zoutte said. “I think it’s still best left to the private sector.” 

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