BRISTOL, Tenn. — U-Haul recently completed its purchase of the former Kmart building in Bristol, Tennessee, clearing the way for a 60,000- to 65,000-square-foot storage center that will replace its smaller operation across the street.
Bristol developer Steve Johnson sold the property at 2854 West State St. for $3.3 million on Jan. 15, and Clay McQuade, of U-Haul, said inspecting, repairing and cleaning the property are underway.
There are some issues with the building, which has been vacant since the Kmart closed during the summer of 2016, he said. But the problems aren’t beyond rehabilitation projects U-Haul has taken on elsewhere in the country, a process the company calls adaptive reuse, McQuade added.
“It’s in OK condition,” he said. “No significant restructuring or tearing down is necessary.”
McQuade said they got rid of some mold, fixed electrical issues and are currently checking on piping, and the leaky roof needs to be repaired, but the building is structurally sound. He added that the walls, windows and floor are also in good shape.
At present, he said there is no definite timeline on the restoration project, but engineers are drawing up site plans, and he hopes they will be approved by the city within the next few months.
The work will occur in stages, with a showroom to be completed first, followed by two more stages that will add more storage space.
When completed, there will be 750-800 climate-controlled indoor storage rooms. McQuade said there will be 12-15 employees once the project is complete and the storage center is open.
Johnson purchased the property for $2.5 million in September with the original intent of redeveloping it for commercial use. He applied for $1.7 million in tax-increment financing in May from the city to help fund the project.
But Johnson said U-Haul approached him with an offer to buy the property, and on Oct. 1, his company, Johnson Commercial Development, applied for a special-use permit on behalf of U-Haul to allow indoor and outdoor self-storage, as well as truck rentals, on the property. It was approved by the city’s Planning Commission approved in October.
Johnson told the Bristol Herald Courier in late October that he lost interest in the redevelopment project because the city hired MuniCap, a Maryland-based financial consulting firm, to complete a study to determine if the TIF incentive was necessary.
MuniCap began working on the study in July, and though a draft report was prepared, it was never finalized, according to City Attorney Danielle Smith. The Bristol Herald Courier sought access to the draft study through a Freedom of Information Act request, but the city denied it on the grounds it is confidential under Tennessee law.
Through a separate FOIA request, the Herald Courier acquired two invoices from MuniCap to the city for charges totaling $6,937.50. Smith told the Herald Courier on Nov. 7 the city expected a third and final invoice, but it hadn’t been received as of Tuesday.