Reports that Jim Clayton is considering sites other than the Knoxville Police Department headquarters location to build a $150 million science museum won’t deter the city from proceeding with plans to relocate KPD, the fire department, municipal court and other city offices to the old St. Mary’s property, said Deputy Mayor and Chief Operating Officer David Brace.
The plan Mayor Madeline Rogero presented at her last budget address was a land swap that began with Clayton buying the present KPD headquarters on Howard Baker Jr. Boulevard for his museum and the city acquiring the old St. Mary’s site (for $1 plus a $16 million tax deal) from Tennova.
News that Clayton’s commitment to the KPD site may be wavering did not appear to faze Brace, who spoke to the North Knoxville Business and Professional Association Friday morning.
“Jim is considering his options – somebody is talking to him about a greenfield location – but we will be talking to him again soon. We still feel good about (the plan to relocate the offices to the St. Mary’s site),” Brace said at the NKBPA meeting.
The Tennova property was one of three sites the city initially considered. The other two contenders – the campuses of Knoxville College and Rule High School – didn’t pan out, and when Tennova notified the city it had set a date (Dec. 28, 2018) for the hospital’s closure, the city began to move on the St. Mary’s deal. Brace emphasized that the city had nothing to do with Tennova’s decision to close the hospital.
He said there are three buildings on the south end of the parcel that will meet the city’s needs.
“The north campus is a whole ’nother question,” he said. Brace said the city hopes to preserve the original hospital building (circa 1930) with its marble and brass interior, and the Magdalene Clarke Tower, which he described as “nine floors of good, solid building” with panoramic views, suitable to redevelopment as housing and/or office space.
The old hospital site offers many advantages and has the potential to be “very beneficial” to the burgeoning Broadway Corridor, Brace said. Its close proximity to Fulton High School could lead to partnerships in First Responder and EMT training, as well as expose students to the idea of law enforcement careers.
Brace said he is confident that the project can be completed within its $40 million budget.