KNOXVILLE (WATE) – When you look from downtown across the Tennessee River to South Knoxville, you see a giant building reflected on the water.
Formerly Baptist Hospital, it’s picturesque from afar. But up close, there’s no life. Dust is collecting since the hospital closed in 2008.
New ownership stepped in this year, Tennova Healthcare.
“Tennova is very excited about doing anything over here to create a vibrant nature to the space,” said Tennova CEO Michael Garfield.
About 50 employees already work in the east section of the building closest to the Gay Street Bridge.
Garfield says he plans to bring about 200 more employees there and some of those will be new jobs.
“The fact that we now have new ownership announcing plans to start redeveloping some of it with interest in developing the rest of it, that’s good news,” said Knoxville Mayor-elect Madeline Rogero.
She officially takes office in December and says the future of the vacant space is a big step when it comes to the success of the South Knoxville Waterfront project.
“It’s one of the best opportunities to grow Knoxville,” Rogero said.
“We are the vision currently for this campus so we are going to try to develop it,” said Garfield.
He adds that his vision is, “We would love to see a developer take this campus.”
Garfield says there’s some interest, but Tennova doesn’t have anything tangible to report right now.
One direction is a joint venture between Tennova and a developer to create a mixed-use development with retail, restaurants and possibly condos.
“We want the highest and best use so if some of it has to come down and that’s the best way to get development, sure we would be supportive of that,” Rogero said.
Tennova says everything is on the table, even the possibility of selling off the property. “Don’t know if we would sell it or not. We might,” Garfield said.
Whatever happens, Tennova’s presence means extra tax dollars. Since Tennova is a for-profit business, it will be required to pay city and county taxes on the vacant building.
The Property Assessor’s Office is working to put an exact value on the property so it can start billing Tennova.
If Tennova invests into the building, that means even more money for Knoxville and Knox County.
For example, if Tennova put in $25 million to create a mixed-use development, that would generate almost half a million dollars in property taxes each year.
It’s a prime piece of real estate too good to sit unused as it is now. Rogero knows it and says it will be one of her top priorities.
“Our team will be working very closely with Tennova and any other property owners or developers along the South Waterfront,” the mayor-elect said.