VA Announcement

Local officials announced the Knoxville VA Campus is now under local government control at a Jan. 15 press conference. Pictured, front row (left to right): County Supervisor Steve McCombs, County Supervisor Chair Mark Raymie, Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch and County Supervisor Kisha Jahner. Back row: Knoxville City Council members Jyl DeJong, John Gotta, Dylan Morse, Justin Plum and Megan Suhr.

After sitting abandoned for 10 years, local officials announced the Knoxville Veterans Administration campus is now owned and controlled by the local government.

During a Jan 15 press conference, officials from the City of Knoxville and Marion County shared the future of the campus.

“I am pleased to announce that earlier today, Marion County and the City of Knoxville partnered together to obtain the vacant VA campus through agreements with both state and federal government entities,” said Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch. “The city and county will work together to bring new life into this lang and turn it into a thriving part of the Knoxville community.”

The city of Knoxville and by extension Marion County have been working for years to free the abandoned complex from federal hands so it could be redeveloped in the community. The campus was closed just more than 10 years ago.

With local governments now in charge, the plan is to demolish 37 of the 39 buildings located on the campus and begin development for the property. Hatch says this is a multi-phase project that will likely take place over several years, and that all details are not yet worked out.

Through an agreement with the State Historical Preservation Office, buildings 27 and 28, which are the two oldest buildings on the VA campus, will go to market for 60 days. During this time period, private investors are able to express interest in purchasing the buildings. If no interest is expressed within 60 days, the buildings will be controlled by the local government.

“We certainly don’t want this to be the end of a legacy, but the beginning of a new chapter that will breathe renewed life into the property and the community,” said Hatch. “Today is a day for the Knoxville community to celebrate as we turn the page on a new chapter in Knoxville’s future.”

Once developed, the site will be referred to as “Veterans District” and will retain the original patriotic street names in the development plan.

According to Marion County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Raymie, developing the VA property will create more affordable housing for middle-class families. Officials believe the development will produce 697 mixed housing units that can accommodate 1,558 people. If the property is fully developed, the expected valuation is $144 million.

“This is potentially the largest public infrastructure project Marion County has ever undertaken,” said Raymie.

City and county officials hope to begin the demolition and development process immediately. The first focus of the project will be on the campus’ south side, with hopes of demolition beginning in the spring, followed by potential development beginning in late 2020.

Officials hope to begin work on the remaining areas of the campus this summer, with larger-scale demolition taking place in the latter part of the year.

“This is a historic day for Marion County and Knoxville,” said Raymie. “Because of the vision and leadership of the people up here and in this room, and many who could not be here, we have turned the page on the history of the VA campus, Knoxville and Marion County. This is a win.”

The Knoxville City Council and Marion County Board of Supervisors held a joint special session regarding the transition of the VA’s ownership earlier in the day. During the meeting, three separate items were passed, one regarding the historic preservation of the site, a second in regards to the sale and receipt of the property, and a third accepting the title of the property.

Project leaders have formed a website at https://www.knoxvillevadistrict.com where updates and other information on the VA district will be shared in the future.

Emma Skahill can be reached at eskahill@journalexpress.net or by calling the newsroom at 641-842-2155.

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