After weeks of discussions and planning, the owner of the property said last week that the cost of repairing and bringing the building up to code is simply too much. The plan now is to demolish the building this spring.
“We met with the city in December and they gave us until the beginning of February to get our plan to them, which we did. Our drawings, a survey, the asbestos abatement. ... It was all taken care of,” said Johnathon Anderson, founder of the nonprofit organization Engage Tri-Cities. “I had a meeting with our contractor and architect ... and the city was going to require us to completely gut the building to a shell and basically start over. Going into the project we were hoping that we could go in and repair the code violations.”
Anderson said the cost estimate for the repairs — electrical, plumbing and HVAC work — was coming in at more than $500,000. Even though much of the work and items were going to be donated, Anderson believes it’s not wise to spend that amount of money on the property.
“Even if it didn’t cost our organization, it was going to cost someone and we didn’t feel like that was wise,” he said. “The city has been supportive. ... It’s not their fault or anyone’s. It just doesn’t make good business sense to move forward with the project in this manner.”
The Hog Wild Saloon has been closed for nearly a year after a deadly shooting took place inside the building in March 2018. At that time, city officials found it to be suffering from numerous code and safety violations. Kingsport ordered the building to be demolished, and eventually the matter made its way to a Sullivan County courtroom, where a judge upheld the decision to tear down the saloon.
During all of this, the ownership of the building changed hands from furniture store magnate Paul Bellamy to Engage Tri-Cities, which helps churches and businesses connect with the communities around them.
Anderson envisioned the saloon being converted into a job resource center for the homeless and low-income families.
“Our staff did their due diligence and we were prepared to demolish the building. But I think we did the right thing by giving them extra time to draw their own conclusions using their own people,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming. “It saved the taxpayers the expense of demolishing the building and gave them time to develop their own plans for the property.”
PLAN MOVING FORWARD
The plan moving forward is to demolish the building, which is out for quote now. Then, Anderson said the organization will re-assess and decide if it wants to put a new building on the property or locate the job resource center elsewhere.
Demolition could begin in the next three to four weeks and wrap up in April.
“Ideally, I wanted to renovate the building and possibly have the option to purchase the hotel and use it as housing for the homeless,” Anderson said. “We’ve had conversations with the hotel owners and they are willing to sell. But we can’t come to an agreement on a number.”
For more information on Engage Tri-Cities, visit www.engage.cc.