KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After a two-year hiatus, Mayor Indya Kincannon is proposing a $750,000 investment into the city’s Commercial Façade Improvement Program. For 16 years the program stimulated the redevelopment of vacant buildings in targeted commercial areas.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city rightfully shifted our funding priorities to help families in need,” Kincannon said. “In our last two budgets, we were unable to fund the Commercial Façade Improvement Program.

“Thankfully, because of a package of federal pandemic-relief assistance and other funding, we’ll soon be able to vigorously restart this successful program.” 

Partnering with property owners, the city’s $8.1 million in investments have supported neighborhood-level redevelopment throughout downtown and on Sevier, Magnolia and North Central avenues. 

A total of 174 building exteriors have gotten a fresh new look, and the city’s funding has been met with $18 million in owner investment. 

Ken Hill said partnering with the city on a façade project was “instrumental” in bringing back to life a 111-year-old building at 822 Sevier Ave. 

“Every little bit helps, especially when you’re developing in an unknown situation with an old building when you really don’t know what you’re going to get into until you get into it,” he said. 

Ken and his wife Debbie bought the 8,000-square-foot South Knoxville building and renovated it into a mixed-use space with two short-term rentals, two retail businesses and their own residence.

More than 1,200 jobs have been created at properties upgraded through the Commercial Façade Improvement Program, according to City Housing and Neighborhood Development Department records.  

Prior to redevelopment, the properties participating in the Commercial Façade Improvement Program had been assessed at $22.1 million. After the investments, the assessed value increased to $53.7 million. 

The new $750,000 to fund more commercial façade projects like the Hills’ is part of a $35 million budget amendment to the city’s operating and capital budgets. City Council approved it on the first of two readings at its Oct. 19, 2021 meeting. 

A detailed listing of the Mayor’s proposal, including the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds or money, freed up by other federal assistance, can be found at www.knoxvilletn.gov/arpa