Mayor, city officials meet with Eastman to discuss housing

Matthew Lane • Sep 4, 2016 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Mayor John Clark recently met with Eastman Chemical Company officials to discuss one of the major issues facing the Model City: housing.

The need for more and better housing options in the Model City has been on city officials’ radar for more than a year. One of the seven work groups at the One Kingsport summit dealt specifically with housing, and the 30-member panel explored what markets are missing and how best to address those gaps.

The issue came to the forefront two years ago when city and elected officials learned how many relocated Eastman employees were choosing to live outside the city limits. Since then, city officials and local developers appear to have a multifaceted approach to housing — incentives for apartment complexes, an emphasis on higher-end homes and a plan to renovate all of the public housing in town.

At the meeting with Eastman officials, Clark said he, Chris McCartt (assistant city manager for administration) and Corey Shepherd (business development specialist) gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the new housing developments taking place within the city, the One Kingsport initiatives dealing with housing and education statistics from Kingsport City Schools.

“We’re trying to get around to our businesses and employers and letting them know the investments we’re making in our city and how we’re improving our city,” Clark said. “We wanted to make sure Eastman and their relocation people know, as they speak to current and new employees moving to area, the effort and initiatives that we are implementing in Kingsport.”

Basically, the meeting was to bring Eastman up to speed on all things housing in the Model City.

“We wanted them to understand it’s a new day in Kingsport,” Clark said. “Specifically, we really wanted to let them know we’re investing in our housing for both current and new residents.”

In an email to the Times-News, CeeGee McCord, director of global public and community affairs, said Eastman makes an effort to stay informed in order to reflect the variety and quality of housing available in the region.

The 31-slide presentation started off with the new apartment developments, including Riverbend Villas (behind Walmart on Fort Henry Drive), the Overlook at Indian Trail (behind K-mart on Stone Drive), the Retreat at Meadowview and the Town Park lofts on West Sullivan Street.

From there, the presentation shifted to millennials and listed some of the amenities young professionals look for when considering a community to live in, such as parks or hiking trails, top-rated public schools, walkability, a revitalized downtown and local coffee shops and restaurants. It also included information on PEAK (Kingsport’s young professional organization).

Highlights of new housing developments were in the presentation, including Edinburgh, South Edinburgh, Riverwatch, Old Island and Polo Fields. One Kingsport initiatives regarding housing and notable facts about Kingsport’s school system rounded out the presentation.

“Sometimes we take it for granted that we expect everyone to get information from the paper or online what we’re doing in Kingsport. Not everyone may be up to speed on the great things we’re doing,” Clark said. “We’re not leave anything to chance. We want to continue the dialog with our major employers to ensure they know what we’re doing as a city to improve the quality of life here.”

On any given day of the business week, some 20,000 people come into the city to work, shop and eat. The problem is they go home at the end of the day. City officials would like to tap into these 20,000 commuters and convince some of them to move within the city limits.

“The 20,000 is a target rich environment for us,” Clark said. “They’re already here eight hours a day, so what’s it going to take to get them to live here the additional 16?”

Eastman officials requested the meeting with the mayor. At this time no similar meetings with other major employers in town are scheduled. Clark said he envisions future meetings taking place with companies such as Domtar and the local hospitals.

“We want to make sure we’re communicating the message we have and making sure it’s received. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Clark said. “Anytime we have the opportunity to share information and answer questions and have dialog, it’s a good thing.”