Zoutte said there are still too many unknowns regarding the campus. The idea, however, he says is “worth looking at” in the future.
Councilor April Verwers said there would have to be many pros and cons to weigh before making any decision regarding the EUL. She also has reservations about working with the federal government. She believes the VA has offered Knoxville “a lot of lip service” over the years, but has not followed through on any promises. As for Washington’s efforts, she gives him a great deal of credit.
“I don’t know anybody that’s worked harder than James,” she said.
Past reservations expressed by the City, about taking ownership of the campus, include roads and sewer infrastructure that are not up to City Code. Recent discussions about the VA have not taken place at city council meetings.
The City of Knoxville Council and staff have been working closely with KVA and the VA for several years in an effort to ensure that the VA Hospital ground is used in a way that moves Knoxville forward. Examples have included the City creating an Urban Renewal Area over the property, and signing a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the use of Tax Increment Financing for the future development of the campus by KVA. Staff has also been drafting a new zoning designation specific for the property that would allow for development as proposed by KVA. At one point the City even explored the idea of moving City Hall to the VA Campus but chose not to due to concern of citizens and downtown business owners. The City is constantly exploring and considering options, concepts and ideas as they come forward on how to successfully redevelop the property. Staff has also had many conversations with potential tenants on the how their proposed use of specific buildings could work and be successful. For whatever reason those potential tenants always seems to walk away during the lease negotiation process with the VA and KVA.