Night Owl Circus Arts



AcroJam
Tomorrow 3:15 PM at South
12 spots open
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Beginning Ballet for Adults w/ Gem
Sun 3/3 2 PM at South
8 spots open
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Chair Dance w/ Gem
Sun 3/3 3 PM at South
9 spots open
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Sexy Jazz w/ Eva
Sun 3/3 4 PM at South
11 spots open
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Choreography and Creative Movement w/ Vianna
Sun 3/3 5 PM at South
5 spots open
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Intermediate Lyra Exploration w/ Vianna
Sun 3/3 6:30 PM at South
3 spots open
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Intermediate Fabric w/ Vianna
Mon 3/4 12:30 PM at South
5 spots open
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Youth Aerial Apparatus w/ Gracie
Mon 3/4 4:30 PM at South
9 spots open
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Duo Acro and Pyramids
Mon 3/4 5:30 PM at South
9 spots open
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Intermediate/Advanced Performance
Mon 3/4 6:30 PM at South
5 spots open
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Juggling w/ Craig
Tue 3/5 5:30 PM at South
11 spots open
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Our Community. Our Circus. Save Night Owl.

Night Owl Circus Arts needs your Immediate Help!

NOTE: The January 9th meeting has been postponed yet again to a date in February which is TBD.

Update Sunday, January 7th, 2024

Hello to all our wonderful Night Owls and Night Owl Circus Arts supporters!

I'd like to start by saying how appreciative I am to have all your incredible support, continuous encouragement, and amazing advice while we navigate this difficult time. I've been waiting to post an update about this situation (the possible demolition of our NOCA South location in 10 months) when I had more information to share. Unfortunately, the property management/developer and City's progress has been slow, and communication about this redevelopment project has been very limited. This has left myself and business in a state of limbo with limited options of how to move forward during this time. I'm sorry that I don't have more to share, but I wanted to reach out to our community and give you what little information we have as I know that Night Owl Circus Arts means so much to so many of you.

General Update:

I'm a bit overwhelmed, but doing my best to balance the demolition situation with the day-to-day operation of Night Owl Circus Arts in addition to our smaller businesses. I want to express how grateful I am to the Night Owl Circus Arts instructors, students, and performers. Thank you all for your endless patience and support! Everyone’s hard work, flexibility, and understanding has been amazing, and I can't say how appreciative I am for each and every one of you!

Detailed Update:

The "Neighbor Meeting" for the possible rezoning of the Burlington Mill Property was on December 6th at City Hall. The purpose of this meeting was for the neighbors in and around the property to ask questions to the developer about the project and provide the Planning Commission comments on the possible rezoning and the proposed project. Traditionally, “Neighbor Meetings” give developers the opportunity to present their plans to the community while the Planning Commission has the opportunity to gain community feedback from the proposed project. This process assists the Planning Commission in making rezoning decisions.

Developers are required to present at "Neighbor Meetings" when seeking rezoning approval from the Johnson City Planning Commission. Because the Burlington Mill Property has split zoning (I-2 and B-3), the Burlington property needs to be rezoned for Sound Management's project to begin.

When we arrived on 6th, I believe we had about 40 people who specifically came to support Night Owl Circus Arts. It was so amazing to see such an incredible show of support! Thank you to everyone who came on behalf of Night Owl! And, thank you so much for all your comments, questions, emails, and research! Other community members, a few Burlington Mill residential tenants, the Johnson City Development Services Department, the local Sound Management staff, and WJHL reporter Jayonna Scurry were also present. (Thank you Jayonna and Jeff!) It was certainly a packed house, and the meeting was live-streamed in addition.

During the meeting, the developer, Yuri Miller of Excimia representing Sound Management LLC, presented plans of a phased redevelopment project for the Burlington Mill Property. The project being proposed is a mixed-use (residential and commercial) property that would consist of 786 apartments (157 studios, 236 one-bedrooms, 275 two-bedrooms, and 118 three-bedrooms), 1,342 parking spots (for reference the ETSU Parking Garage has a little over 1,200 spots), and 40,000 square feet of commercial space.

All of the buildings on the 22.8 acre property will be demolished in a phased approach. Unfortunately, the building that Night Owl Circus Arts currently rents in is located in Phase One, which is expected to begin in 9 months. The redevelopment project is expected to take 8 years. The portion of Brush Creek that is covered by the large 1924 Gloria Rayon Mill will be uncovered.

The developer's presentation was simple and consisted of a handout and a slide. He was able to provide an image of the project's architectural plan, but was unable to provide project specifics at this time such as timeline or apartment pricing/pricing range. Click here for the Dec. 6th "Neighbor Meeting" Handout.

Those attending asked many questions about the specifics of the project and voiced their concerns about the future of Night Owl Circus Arts, affordable housing in Johnson City, the environmental impact to Brush Creek, traffic concerns, and more. Unfortunately, the developer was not able to provide most of the answers at this time and was unable to address a majority of the concerns.

The Planning Commision meeting to vote on the rezoning of the Burlington Mill Property was originally set on December 12th; however, it was made clear at the beginning and end of the "Neighborhood Meeting" that the meeting had been tentatively moved to January 9th. The reason for the change of date was not explained.

About two weeks later, I finally got an opportunity to sit down and meet in-person with the developer. The conversation was polite and respectful, and he has verbally expressed a desire to work with us and try to help us find a new space through his estate agent, which I appreciate. However, no viable solutions or further communication has been provided at this time.

The new date for the rezoning meeting has now been again postponed from January to February with no firm date set. We believe they are waiting for completion of a traffic study. A traffic study is being conducted by Sound Management's local consultant, Mattern & Craig. During the preliminary traffic study the West Walnut St/West State of Franklin Rd intersection was NOT included. We do not know if data on this particular intersection will be included in the final traffic study report or not, but we hope it will be. We know that the safety of that particular intersection is a significant concern to many in Johnson City overall, not just the Burlington Mill neighborhood.

We will definitely do our best to keep everyone updated with what's going on with the February Planning Commission Meeting! Unfortunately, the date is still to be announced. Thank you to everyone who has researched, emailed, and signed up to speak on our behalf! It means so much!

Thank you so much to the Volunteer Building Search Committee for all your hard work! We are still searching. If you would like to help our search, our specs are listed below. This is our top priority right now and the most important way you can support us! If you have a lead on a potential space for us, please email us at info@NightOwlCircusArts.com.

Building Search:

That 20 foot ceiling height is a crucial part of what we're looking for! Here are the full specs, including some recent minor adjustments:

Crucial Specs:

Flexible Specs:

We are also very open to considering "business roommate" arrangements with gymnastics gyms, event spaces, yoga studios, Crossfit gyms, martial arts studios, etc.

We are still not actively fundraising at this time as we want to solidify our plans and figure out our next steps first, but if you wish to support us during this difficult time, the best thing you can do is get tickets to see the Nutcracker After Dark online performance!

If you want more frequent email updates on this topic, join our dedicated mailing list here:



Thank you so much, Night Owls!

-Craig Lewis


Dated Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

Night Owl Circus Arts (NOCA) has recently learned that the New Jersey-based property company Sound Management/Burlington Mill LLC intends to demolish the building that we have rented space in for many years. Sound Management has a phased redevelopment plan for the Burlington Mill property which includes the possible construction of approximately 780 apartments and retail space. The redevelopment project will be completed in stages, and unfortunately NOCA is in Phase #1. The Sound Management staff has communicated that Phase #1 and the demolition of our building will begin in 10 months. This is devastating for our small business and the vibrant circus community that we have painstakingly built over the last 10 years. We are reaching out to our vast Night Owl community to share this sad news with you and to enlist your help. Please help us make sure that the circus dream that took us 10 years to build won't take 10 months to crush!

Our landlord, the New Jersey-based company Sound Management LLC has plans to demolish the building that we have occupied for many years in Burlington Mills. The expectations of Sound Management is that the demolition will begin in 10 months and that the project will be broken up into phases. Devastatingly, NOCA is in Phase #1, which means we are expecting a 10-month timeline of closing our business and moving before our building is demolished.

Due to the size and nature of our business, this is going to be nearly impossible on this timeline. We have spent the last 10 years painstakingly bootstrapping and lovingly growing our business into the large, vibrant circus community that we are so proud of. It incredibly saddens us to have to tell our community this heartbreaking news.

I'm Craig Lewis, and I'm the owner and founder of Night Owl Circus Arts along with my wife Mikaela. When I began this dream 10 years ago, I never imagined it could grow to become the amazing community that it is. Back then, NOCA was just me, one set of red silks, and a local business owner friend who had an I-beam. Growth was very gradual with many hurdles. There have been a lot of amazing people who have helped and supported us along the way. We could not have done this alone, and we cannot tell you how much it means to us that so many people have supported our dream and vision for 10 years. We appreciate each and every member, past and present, of the Night Owl Circus Arts Community. Thank you so much for all your continued support, Night Owls!

Finding a facility that meets the technical specifications for a circus school is incredibly difficult. Years ago, we found exactly what we needed in Burlington Park. It might not be the most conventional building, but it's an incredibly, irreplaceable gem that we have invested so much in. In 2022, the Burlington property changed hands from the previous owner, a Jonesborough developer, over to a New Jersey-based property company called Sound Management LLC. We were initially nervous about this change, but for the first two years the local management team started to make some real improvements to the building and even began to encourage commercial growth. For this reason, we decided to renew our lease with a three-year agreement to be a part of their vision of growth that they had for the Burlington Park. In addition to the three-year commitment, we also decided to invest heavily in our space as we saw the rapid growth of Johnson City and the steady improvements of Burlington as positive signs for our business.



Rezoning & Important Dates to Remember:

After the expected demolition, Sound Management intends on developing approximately 780 apartments and retail spaces on the 2203 McKinley Rd property. Development of the construction is being done by Daniel Levy of DKLevy, an architectural firm based in Knoxville, TN. Before development can begin, they need to seek rezoning through the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission since Phase #1 is currently zoned for I-2 Heavy Industrial instead of the required B-3 for mixed development. Note that a majority of the Burlington Mill property is already B-3, so only Phase #1 will require rezoning.

  1. For the rezoning to be approved, the property owner is required to host a "Neighborhood Meeting". The Neighborhood Meeting will be held Wednesday, December 6th, 2023 at 6:00PM in the Commission Chambers at the City of Johnson City Municipal and Safety Building, 601 East Main Street. This meeting is for information purposes only. No decisions are made at this meeting, but it does give you an opportunity to discuss the rezoning request with the applicant and staff. There will be a sign-up sheet for comments instead of the usual 12-hour notice/more formal process, and the meeting will be more informal.
    1. We assume Daniel Levy of DKLevy, the architectural firm based in Knoxville, TN and Yuri Miller, Excimia and MSC Consultant, representing Sound Management LLC will be there to answer questions about the project.
    2. The City of Johnson City contact person for the is Riley Pudney, Development Coordinator from the Development Services Department. She can be reached at (423) 434-5970 or by email at rpudney@johnsoncitytn.org.
  2. After the "Neighborhood Meeting", the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission will then consider this rezoning request at its meeting on January 9th, time is TBA. This meeting is also in the Commission Chambers at the City of Johnson City Municipal and Safety Building, 601 East Main Street and can also be live-streamed on the City's YouTube channel.
How can you support us?

We have an incredible community of people who love and support Night Owl Circus Arts, and we're enlisting your help!

Attend the Rezoning Meeting at City Hall this Wed, Dec 6th, 6 PM

In order to begin this project, the developer needs to rezone the property, and in order to do so, they are required to host a public neighborhood meeting where the community can voice concerns.

We want to see our community and our supporters there! We want you to show up, show support, and even consider speaking at this meeting! It would mean so much to me personally, and to the entire NOCA community to see you there!

There will be an additional meeting on January 9th where a vote will be made to approve or deny the rezoning request, but this meeting will offer very limited time for public comment.

Help us in our search for a new space

We need your help in finding a new home! The specs we need are not easy to meet.

Crucial Specs:

  • Ceiling height: 20 feet is our preferred minimum. 16 feet is our absolute minimum. The more, the merrier! This is one of our biggest factors! Our current space has 21 feet.
  • HVAC: Heating and air conditioning is a must.
  • Square footage: We're looking for a minimum of 1800 square feet, up to a maximum of 5000 square feet. Our current space is the perfect size at 2500 square feet.
  • Occupancy: We need an occupancy limit of at least 50 people, with a strong preference for 100+.
  • Location: We are heavily connected to ETSU, so proximity to campus is a must. We'd ideally like to be within a 15 minute drive or less from campus. Our absolute maximum distance from campus would be a 25 minute drive. We also need to be in a safe, low-crime area.

Flexible Specs:

  • Beams: For our rigging, we ideally need exposed steel structural beams. Drop ceilings would have to be removed. Wooden beams are usually not usable. In the absence of structural beams, a box trussing system could be installed in a space, but this is much more expensive. Structural beams as used for aerial rigging is a complex topic - talk to me if you have questions!
  • Low ceiling area: Having both a high ceiling area, and a low ceiling area (9-12 feet) is a major plus. The pole studio in our current space is 10 feet.
  • Adequate parking: We need at least 20 parking spots of our own minimum, but the more the better! We are open to negotiating with neighboring businesses for overflow parking since our peak hours are outside of 9-5 business hours. This requirement can be disregarded for downtown locations.
  • Noise restrictions: We sometimes have classes, rehearsals, and shows running as late as 11 PM, and they can be a bit loud. On the flip-side, we teach some classes that have guided meditations and other moments of relaxation, and we like to be able to make the space quiet when needed.
  • Lease term: We prefer no more than a 3 year lease term.

If you know of a space that you think might meet these requirements, please email me at info@NightOwlCircusArts.com.

We're also in search of a short term space that could host overflow from NOCA North during the interim if there's a gap between when we lose NOCA South, and when we have a new space. For this overflow space, we're much more flexible. We would consider month-to-month affordable leased spaces, or business roommate relationships. Even low ceiling spaces could be beneficial as a place for us to host our ground-based classes. Mirrors are a major plus for low ceiling spaces.

Other ways to support us:

  • Share this page on social media!
  • At some point in the next year, we will almost certainly be fundraising. That day has not arrived yet, as first we have to figure out what our next moves are. Although we are not actively soliciting donations at this time, any assistance is appreciated. You can support us by buying class credits or gift certificates, or by donating here.
  • If there are professionals willing to discount or donate services for us, in the coming months we'll likely be looking for general contractors, handipeople, fabricators or welders, structural engineers, theatrical lighting designers, custom glass / mirror services, moving companies (or really anyone with a box truck), climate controlled storage, and attorneys. Any referrals are immensely appreciated!
  • We will be looking for volunteers to help us with physically packing and moving stuff out of the space if that time comes.
  • Keep checking back here with this page! I will be posting updates to this page regularly as things progress.

Please join our special mailing list for this topic!

I really try to keep massive email blasts to all of our past students to a minimum. I will only send out such emails for major updates. If you would like to receive more frequent updates on the situation at Burlington specifically, please join this dedicated mailing list.



What about NOCA North?

The space we affectionally refer to as "NOCA North", more accurately known as Appalachian Stars Gymnastics (ASG), is our original location in Boones Creek. Our classes there date all the way back to 2013. We have a great, mutually beneficial "business roommate" arrangement with ASG that allows us to host aerial classes for adults during the hours after their younger gymnasts start to clear out around 7 or 8 PM most nights. This space is incredibly nostalgic to us, and we value it immensely for some practical reasons as well, including the 26' ceiling height and the spring floors.

Currently, only a tiny fraction of our classes take place at NOCA North - less than 10%. This is mainly due to scheduling limitations with not being able to come in until the gymnasts leave each day. If we were to lose NOCA South before we find a new permanent home, of course we would make every effort to dramatically expand our offerings at NOCA North. But this is very far from being a full solution. If we were to consolidate to NOCA North, even with it at its full capacity, we'd still lose at least about 75-80% of our classes.

NOCA North is definitely a very valuable space for us, and we plan to maintain our excellent relationship with Appalachian Stars Gymnastics, and possibly expand the schedule over there as much as we can! It will be a part of the solution, but in isolation it's not enough for us to maintain our business in a way that even remotely resembles the amazing community that it is today.

What will happen to my unused class credits if NOCA closes or downsizes?

If you've made it this far in the article, then you already know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure it doesn't come to this! But we still understand that you may have questions and concerns about the topic.

Under normal circumstances, all purchases at NOCA are non-refundable. We recognize that these would not be normal circumstances. If necessary, when the time comes, we would handle reasonable refund requests for unused credits on a case-by-case basis. We promise that we will make every effort to make sure that such requests are handled fairly and thoughtfully. We are committed to full transparency as this situation develops. We also firmly promise to set aside adequate funds to be prepared for all reasonable and foreseeable refund requests in the event of our closure or significant downsizing. This page will be updated with more details as the situation develops.

Although we try to keep things simple, our class credit system can sometimes get surprisingly complicated, and our policies have changed over the years. There will be many different types of refund requests that we may need to consider for the various unique situations.

We would not begin to handle any refund requests until such time as we know what's actually going to happen, which is likely to be at least several months from now, if not a year or more.

Currently, class credits purchased at NOCA expire one year after purchase. There are some people who purchased credits in the days long ago before we introduced credit expiry several years ago. If you have such very old credits in your account, we urge you to use them. We would not generally accept refund requests for purchases made more than a year from the date of closure. As of this writing, you do have, at absolute minimum, 8 to 10 months before the potential demolition of NOCA South to use up those credits, which should be more than enough time!

Our NOCA Handbook does lay out a policy for handling refund requests in the event of NOCA's complete temporary or permanent closure. These policies were added to the handbook during our COVID-19 closure in 2020.

By far the best way to make a refund request would be to text us at (423) 212-6622. You could also call us or email us if you prefer, but texts to the NOCA number are the easiest for us to handle.

We do not want this to be the end for NOCA! We have absolutely no intention of shutting down or giving up! That said, we know some of you will have understandable concerns, so I felt that it was important to address this topic here with transparency. We intend to fight hard for NOCA and keep this amazing community going, and if we succeed in our goals, then this entire section will be rendered irrelevant. That's the goal here!

To our friends and neighbors in the Burlington building:

Over the past 10 years we've met so many amazing people in the Burlington building, from fellow small business owners and their staff, to the friendly residential tenants. We're so sorry that you're also finding yourself in this stressful situation. If there is any way that we can support you through this difficult journey, please don't hesitate to reach out to me anytime at info@NightOwlCircusArts.com. We care about our community and want to support you however we can.

For what it's worth, we will continue to offer you the same deal that we've always offered to Burlington residents: Your first class with us is free! Just text us at (423) 212-6622 and let us know that you're a Burlington resident, and we'll get you set up with one free class credit.