Niswonger Buys Kyker Properties
Article and photo courtesy of The Greeneville Sun.
BY MICHAEL S. RENEAU
Originally published September 5, 2014
Greeneville businessman Scott Niswonger has purchased five downtown properties from longtime merchant Charles Kyker.
Niswonger bought the five Depot Street properties for $225,000, according to documents filed at the office of Greene County Register of Deeds Joy Rader Nunnally Thursday.
The five properties are:
* the former Droke's shoe store building at 136 W. Depot St., where the now-closed Kyker's Boots & Shoes was later located for several years;
* a former pool hall, with a "Billiards" sign still on the front door, located at 134 W. Depot St.;
* a building at 130 W. Depot St., just east of the Leighton House office building, which is not owned by Kyker.
* the building at 121 W. Depot St. which for decades has been the home of Kyker's, the dry goods store he has owned and operated; and
* the building across the street from Kyker's store, at 138 W. Depot St., where a small business, Old Timers Bottom Dollar, opened in April.
Kyker, 76, has been in business on Depot Street since 1963.
Niswonger said per the sales contract, Kyker has an option to keep occupying the 121 W. Depot St. property -- where his current store is -- for a certain period of time. But he couldn't remember how long that period was, he said in an interview Friday.
The other four buildings will immediately transfer to Niswonger's ownership. SMN Investments Inc. is the entity through which Niswonger bought the properties.
Kyker declined to comment Friday. He initially denied the deal was finalized, even though the transfer had been recorded at the Register of Deeds office.
Niswonger, who already owns several properties downtown and on Depot Street, said his main goal in buying the buildings was to accelerate revitalization of downtown Greeneville.
He envisions Depot Street being a hub for more stores and residential developments, including loft apartments and condominiums. "It could be a combinations of things like that," he said. "We hope we can get started with that in the spring."
He's been in talks recently with Greeneville Town Administrator Todd Smith about creating a TIF district downtown.
A TIF, or tax increment financing, is a tool whereby governments or economic development agencies can issue bonds to pay for a redevelopment project of public value. That debt is paid off over a set number of years by applying directly to the debt the additional (incremental) real estate taxes generated by the improved properties.
Smith said Friday he and Niswonger have talked several times about developing a TIF district downtown. The Town of Greeneville currently owns the conference center at the General Morgan Inn thanks to a TIF begun in the 1990s, but a proposal recently submitted to the town calls for the General Morgan Inn to take ownership of the conference center.
The proposal still needs the town's approval.
"Let's start new," Smith said Friday in talking about a new TIF project.
Since the General Morgan Inn project was started, Tennessee law has changed to allow for a whole district to be redeveloped using a TIF, Smith said. The district must be contiguous and can include properties owned by multiple people or entities. So other property owners downtown could benefit from a new TIF if they choose to improve their properties using TIF funds.
"I think the benefits are going to be there for a lot of property owners downtown," Smith said.
The board of mayor and aldermen would also have to put a redevelopment plan together to establish the TIF district, according to Smith.
"It's so dependent on getting this redevelopment plan put together," Smith said. "This TIF gives us an opportunity. I think there's a whole slew of other properties downtown that could benefit from these public enhancements and public improvements."
Smith doesn't have a timeframe in mind but plans to start discussions with the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen soon now that Niswonger has purchased Kyker's properties.
The next step, though, would be to finalize the proposal for the General Morgan Inn to take ownership of the conference center there.
Niswonger hopes some sort of TIF district is established by the time he's ready to begin work downtown. "We want to see that get in place before we really begin to do anything," he said. "It's just important to have those properties that are adjacent to one another in tact."
"It's of primary importance that this TIF district be accelerated," he continued.
Meanwhile, Niswonger said he would also like to see a permanent parking structure eventually built on Depot Street. The corridor will need more parking if more shops and residential structure are ever developed.
He also said he thinks some of the properties he bought from Kyker Thursday will have to be demolished, with new buildings constructed.
Kyker told the Sun in an April interview that he and his wife plan to move back to Oneonta, Ala., where they own four houses and a farm.
"I can't handle this any more," he said in the April interview. "It's too much for me."
Kyker, a Newport native, also owns stores in Newport and Morristown and has been a business constant in downtown Greeneville for more than five decades.
He came to Greeneville in September 1963 to run a department store for the Ira A. Watson Company -- better known as Watson's.
He was working in Russellville, Ala., when he got the call that Watson's was opening its Greeneville store, and he hurried here with his wife to open it.
He has flourished since branching out on his own in 1979, at his current West Depot Street location.