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I am happy to see that at least one of Knoxville’s publications took the initiative to provide a more complete picture of this situation rather than just touting the fact that the building will be renovated and the Doughboy Monument will be saved, both feats that any of the proposed uses would accomplish. It is most discouraging to see that the quoted County employees and elected officials are not interested in the BEST use of a very large structure and an entire city block in the middle of an area undergoing revitalization.
I imagine that Mayor Burchett’s response must have been “I am glad somebody’s going to take the job” when selecting a Director of Finance (one that can do math but may not the BEST person to be doing it). I would like to see Mr. Clark’s calculations for determining the economic impact provided by low-income senior housing in an area that is already saturated with low-income uses. Sure the County will receive property tax money from this use, but it would receive that same amount of property tax money from the much better mixed-use proposal offered by Dewhirst. Mr. Clark mentions the creation of 18 jobs but fails to recognize that jobs will be created with either use. More importantly, Family Pride’s proposal shows a $480,000 annual payroll for these 18 employees. That equates to an average gross annual salary of less than $27,000 for each of these new employees. $27,000 is more than $4,000 below Knox County’s limits for the VERY LOW INCOME bracket. Family Pride’s low-income housing development will essentially help to perpetuate the need for low-income housing even for its own employees. The major component missing from Mr. Clark’s assessment, however, is the economic impact on the surrounding businesses affected by this short-sited decision. These businesses, many of them locally-owned, will miss out on a huge opportunity that an active, mixed-use development can provide. Instead of economic gains generated by an influx of employed professionals with income that may be spent at the surrounding businesses, Knox County is choosing the route of minimal economic return by allowing a segment of the population that has little to no expendable income to occupy this property. As evidenced in the Family Pride/Southeastern Housing proposal, practically all needs of the residents will be fulfilled on site. Residents will have no reason to explore the surrounding area and invest what money they may have in the goods and services provided. Even if we look past the low-income component, those residing in this facility will not bring positive economic impact to the businesses in the vicinity.
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