Johnson City Shows How Civil Infrastructure Can Be A Catalyst for Economic Growth

September 4, 2018

Property experts will tell you the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, location. And while the condition and price of a property often changes over time, the location remains the same. Recognizing the vital role that a downtown location plays in the life of a community, the City of Johnson City sought to create desirability and demand for a few strategic, downtown parcels by alleviating flooding that had plagued the area for decades.

To get a clear idea of how they could address the flooding, City officials turned to LDA Engineering to commission a downtown drainage study in 2008. As part of the study, several potential solutions were outlined and then modeled to test their impact. Of those, the City chose to pursue an approach that would improve the flooding situation while also utilizing stormwater as an asset throughout downtown; this approach was titled the Redevelopment Concept.

The Redevelopment Concept, which serves as a master plan, included three phases. The first phase focused on improvements to King Creek. What started with improvements to the stormwater system led to the creation of Founders Park, a lovely 5-acre greenspace that includes a large lawn, ampitheatre, and pavilion.  Building on the momentum surrounding Founders Park, the City completed the phase by building the proposed King Creek bypass and U-Haul sump. Those projects not only addressed serious stormwater issues, but also led to the development of a second recreational and event green space that includes winding paths and public art, known as King Commons.

The second phase of the master plan includes improvements to Brush Creek, including additional culvert capacity at Watauga Avenue and Sevier Street and the opening of Brush Creek from Sevier Street to U-Haul with culverts at road crossings. This second phase is currently underway with additional culvert capacity constructed at Sevier Street.  Additional infrastructure improvements, including detention and conveyance projects to address larger rain events, are being evaluated and considered by the City for future investments around the City.

The success of the downtown projects resulting from the master plan provide an excellent illustration of the important relationship between a city’s infrastructure and its economy. By taking an area that was essentially under water and making it not only usable but a treasured asset to the life of the community’s residents and businesses, the City showed how civil infrastructure can be a catalyst for economic growth. It is often difficult to fully measure the links between infrastructure and economic development; however, the execution of the master plan has already returned significant dividends. While infrastructure investments remain a national challenge, the City’s proactive investment demonstrates their continued commitment to inspire private involvement, community use of downtown spaces, and overall interest in and appreciation of the area.

To hear more about stormwater in downtown Johnson City, please see us at the TAPA Conference in Kingsport September 26-28.