MDT-01082020-n-new-building-downtown

A sketch of the building planned for Maryville’s downtown next to the new butterfly pocket park shows a working outline of a building that may include a restaurant and retail space on the first story and condos on the second and third.

Downtown Maryville is moving closer to being one restaurant and several town homes larger as designs for a multi-story building on West Broadway are now slated for approval.

The only item on the agenda for Maryville’s January Downtown Design Review Board is approval for a mixed-use structure on what is known as the “grassy knoll” on the city’s main thoroughfare.

Though the area planned for the building is only 0.11 acres, the combined restaurant-residence-retail space is designed to be three stories high, housing retail on the first stories and living area on the second and third.

Maryville officials began seriously considering the development March 2019 when two groups were gunning to build on the land: FMP LLC and West Broadway Partners.

WB Partners ultimately secured the project May 7 after city council voted to approve its proposal over FMP’s, though the proposed projects bore many similarities.

The city essentially gave the land to the developer for $1 dollar, according to officials.

Planning staff wrote in notes for the upcoming DDRB meeting that proposed designs for the building match its surrounding neighbors, many of which are part of the city’s oldest lasting structures, now occupied by a variety of businesses.

Having a similar design means the structure will be mostly brick. Other design elements follow patterns established in local buildings whose designs date back before the 1950s.

“It will constitute a welcome improvement to the site and the district as a whole,” the notes said.

Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. Vice President and Knoxville Office Lead James Tomiczek is one of the brains behind the project and a lead with WB Partners.

“The project is going very well,” he told The Daily Times in an email. Harry McIntosh is the lead for the group on the project, but he did not return calls for more information by press time.

The building will join a steadily growing downtown business environment but will also become a distant neighbor to a number of other buildings that remain unused.

Dan Monat, owner of LeConte Realty Owner and a member of the city’s planning commission, said in a phone interview that developers’ choices to build or move into already existing buildings is often a case-by-case matter.

“Location and cost always comes into every decision,” Monat said. He explained renovating currently empty buildings residential, restaurant and retail spaces is prohibitive for some looking to set up shop in town.

“Yeah, you want them to develop and empty building first, but it’s a lot more costly,” he said.

Should the DDRB approve of the designs, the project will make its first hurdle toward complete approval. However, a conflict of interest is also in play, as the applicant for architectural approval is Gary Best of Best & Associates Architects.

Best is also the chair of the DDRB.

Best did not return a call from The Daily Times regarding his role in the new development, but City Planner Jordan Clark said in an interview that Best will have to abstain from voting and will be required to step down from behind the podium as other board members vote.

He may answer a question for the board, City Manager Greg McClain said in the same interview, but otherwise he will not be involved.

Clark explained boards are often created to include figures like Best, whose company has been involved in numerous projects county wide.

“By design you want people on those boards to have that kind of knowledge and expertise,” Clark said, adding the state recommends having an architect on the board. “I think it’s inevitable that they’re going to be doing work in the city that they live in.”

“To Jordan’s point,” McClain added, “you can’t anticipate when these kinds of things are going to happen, but you can get the best people when you know they’re part of that business.”

No timeline or cost for the project has been publicized, but notes on the request for approval shows planning staff views it favorably. Staff recommended some changes to exterior elements, but most elements in the designs were compliant with downtown standards.

The DDRB will meet Monday, Jan. 13 to vote on the request.

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