Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nonprofits To Fill Wing At V.O. Dobbins Center

Organizations committed to the nonprofit wing include the United Way, American Legion, and Upper East Tennessee Human Development A g e n c y.



KINGSPORT — Kingsport has reduced the size of the proposed nonprofit wing of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center but has announced there are commitments from enough organizations to fill the wing on day one.

Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, made these comments to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen earlier this week during an update on the V.O. Dobbins project.
Kingsport is planning a multimillion renovation and expansion project at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center. Construction is expected to begin in late fall and take 15 to 18 months to complete. Estimated cost of the project is $8.8 million.
The project calls for demolishing 13,600 square feet of the existing building, renovating the remaining 46,000 square feet, and adding approximately 50,000 square feet of space — 27,900 of which will be a new nonprofit center.
In May the American Red Cross — which was expected to take up the first floor of the nonprofit wing — pulled out of the project, and city officials went back and discussed scaling back the size of the wing. This week, McCartt told the BMA the wing had been reduced by 3,000 square feet.
However, McCartt said the city has enough commitments from nonprofit organizations for the wing to be 100 percent occupied when it opens.
Organizations committed to the nonprofit wing include the United Way, American Legion and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency (UETHDA) and its Neighborhood Service Center, Contact Concern, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Mountain Region Speech and Hearing.
In addition, Kingsport is allocating space, computers and furniture for the nonprofit Douglass Alumni Association and the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Web site free of charge.
Alderman Ken Marsh again told the BMA he is uncomfortable with the city competing with the private sector over rental space for the nonprofits.
“I cannot understand why we as a board sit here and attack our own businesses and try to destroy our downtown with unintended consequences,” Marsh said.
Alderman Larry Munsey questioned the wing being at 100 percent occupancy the day it opens and not having any space for growth potential.
“I think it would be shortsighted to go in it at 100 percent occupied on day one,” Munsey said.
McCartt said the city would be meeting with the architects in the coming weeks and discussing whether the wing should have space for growth.
“I think everyone would like to open up a new facility at 100 percent capacity, and the same goes for us. I think as we have noticed over the last couple of weeks, there is a lot of interest being generated in this project by the nonprofit community,” McCartt said. “We have to ask ourselves the question — do we want to open this thing with no opportunity for any type of expansion to take place or growth for existing nonprofits?
“That’s something we will look at with the architects over the coming weeks and make a determination of what we’re going to do there.”
A couple of thoughts about what to do with the space include adding the 3,000 square feet back into the project or expanding just the first floor of the wing — both of which would add to the overall cost of the project.
McCartt said the operating cost of the common area of the new facility has not been determined yet, but Kingsport would cover the cost to operate the gyms, the Carver Library and a few offices for the Parks and Recreation Department.
UETHDA will pay $3.50 per square foot to cover the operating costs for its portion of the building. The Neighborhood Watch office will be located in the new nonprofit wing.
Nonprofit organizations will be $5.10 a square foot, which will cover the cost of water, power, custodial services and maintenance in the nonprofit wing.
Early estimates place the cost of the project at $8.8 million, but Kingsport has applied for New Market Tax Credits to help offset the cost of the project — $1.4 million worth or 15 percent of the project. Kingsport has earmarked $5.6 million in its capital improvement plan for the project, and even if the city gets the New Market Tax Credits, a $2.45 million gap in funding would still exist.
McCartt said it’s too early to determine how the gap would be filled.
“We don’t know if that gap is going to remain that. It could very well drop down below $2 million based on what we find out with the New Market Tax Credits,” McCartt said. “If it doesn’t, the board will have to make a decision on how they want to proceed.”
Kingsport could close on the New Market Tax Credits as early as Oct. 1, and construction would likely begin as early as December. The city plans to use a design/build firm, which City Manager John Campbell said could save $300,000 to $600,000 on the project.