Loudon leaders hoping to tap former Hutch site's potential
Map courtesy the Loudon County Economic Development Agency
The Loudon County Economic Development Agency, along with the city of Loudon, the Community Design Center in Knoxville and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization will collaborate on marketing the estimated 10 acres outlined in Loudon.
Although a block of property just north of Mulberry Street in Loudon has seen better days, city and community leaders hope to work together to potentially bring a resurgence to the once bustling residential and industrial district. Hutch Manufacturing Company, which shut its doors in January, operated at the location since 1978, and its owner, David Oleshansky, now plans to put the property on the market. The Loudon County Economic Development Agency, along with the city of Loudon, the Community Design Center in Knoxville and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization will hold a public meeting Nov. 29 to discuss potential uses for the site. The meeting location has not been announced. "What's so important about this is that this is the first time that this property is really going to be on the market in over 35 years," Pat Phillips, EDA president, said. "The days of industrial use are past. ... I think the likelihood of that occurring is very remote just because the age of the buildings, and where it's located." David Watson, with the Community Design Center, said the main goal of the public meeting will be to determine what types of uses residents would like to see for the property. "Generally, we'll talk about the site as it is and (ask) people what they would like to see on the site, and then we will have a couple case studies of what's been done in other places just to kind of get them thinking," Watson said, noting that getting public input was important in marketing the site to potential developers. The Community Design Center will assist in creating a master plan for the site, which officials can use to market the property. "If you have (a) master plan you could sit down with developers, and they can see what the community will support and what the local government will support," Phillips said. "... You're going to have a fairly detailed (view) of what the community supports and what the businesses in this area want to see, so it's a value to a developer to know what he will be able to do." Phillips said some potential uses included single-family homes, apartments, retail office space, restaurants and more. "There's certainly enough property and enough buildings in square feet that we can do a variety of uses," Phillips said. According to the Loudon County Tax Assessor's office, the Hutch Manufacturing property and surrounding lots consist of 18 parcels, 17 of which are classified as commercial, while one is categorized as residential. Tax Assessor Mike Campbell said the property generates a little more than $20,000 in city and county revenue per year. The property, which is listed in state tax assessment records under the Randall Investment Company, was valued at $1.85 million during its appraisal this year. City of Loudon Mayor Judy Keller said a similar project was undertaken in 1994 on a piece of property that now houses the Loudon County Senior Center and the fire station. "If you look at that '94 plan, so much of what we planned has really happened," Keller said. "It's amazing." She said when a master plan was developed in 1994 for the other property in the city, officials used it to market the site. "We tried to get it in front of people who, if they weren't developers, might know developers and just create enthusiasm for the project," Keller said. "... Once some things started happening down there it just boomeranged. It just kept going." She said moving the Carmichael Inn to its current location in the mid-1980s served as a "catalyst" for the city because it made the community recognize Loudon's "historic potential." "So many times when people live in a community all their lives, and you say to them, 'This place is beautiful. It has great bones,' they look at you like you're crazy," Keller said. "They don't have a clue what you're talking about, but as you begin to promote that idea and people begin to see the historic value that we have here, which is so obvious with our courthouse, our river and a courthouse square, then people begin to respond." Watson said once the public meeting takes place, the Community Design Center will render a potential master plan and schematics for the site by spring 2013. Phillips said the old Hutch Manufacturing would likely be converted into a reinvestment district for the purpose of offering tax abatements for potential developers. "Like the mayor said, they took the '94 plan everywhere," Watson said. "That way they can show people what the possibilities and the opportunities are. Otherwise you just talk to them. A picture is worth a thousand words."