Dispute Threatens to Derail Preservation and Development of Pryor Brown

Pryor Brown Garage, Market and Church, Knoxville, June 2016

The trail to this point is a long one. For those of you who may have missed, or don’t remember the earlier developments, I’ll recap. Pryor Brown Garage is a building located on the corner of Church Avenue and Market Street. According to my best memory of an unfortunately lost article by Jack Neely in Metro Pulse, the building is over 100 years old and may be the second oldest parking garage in the country.

I first wrote about the building in March, 2013 when the owners of the building, Royal Properties (Mike Conley, principal), requested $300,000 from CBID to repair the roof and help to do other improvements to the building they insisted was an important historical asset. Ultimately, that request was rejected as the CBID board felt the building was in poor shape due to negligence of the owners who had held the building for over fifteen years.

By June of 2013, I reported that Royal Properties had requested permission for demolition with plans to have the entire city block (they own the whole block, which is dominated by surface parking) be relegated to surface parking. Unlike two months earlier when the building was, according to them, a treasure, it was now a hazard that must be removed. They mentioned vague plans for a tower on the site, “when it becomes economically feasible.”

Pryor Brown Garage, Market and Church Street, Knoxville, January 2017

Later that month the last ditch effort to slow the request failed at the Downtown Design Review Board. Still, it was not torn down and it was March of 2014 when the Metropolitan Planning Commission seemed to acknowledge (after some legal wrangling) that they had no authority to stop a demolition or prevent more surface parking. All seemed at an end. In September of 2014 I wrote a farewell to the garage as demolition finally seemed to be at hand.

But what followed was two years of rumors and speculation as frantic attempts were made behind the scenes by Mayor Rogero, Knox Heritage and others to work out a deal to save the building. After nearly two years, a joyous press conference was held in June of 2016 in which the announcement was made that Royal had reached an agreement with Dover Development to save the building. In January of this year I gave readers a first look at design plans for The Residences at Pryor Brown. In April an ad was taken out on this site promoting the project.

But all was not going well between the parties involved.

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Old City to Get New Wine and Spirits Store

Future Home of Corks Wine and Spirits, 113 S. Central Street, Knoxville, September 2017

Corks Wine and Spirits will soon move from its business from Turkey Creek to 113 South Central Street in the Old City. It’s a move Ryan McElveen says he has been contemplating for a while. Originally intended to be a second location, he has become convinced it’s a better spot for them for the time being and plans to make it their only location for the near term, though he hopes to eventually open a second location out west.

As a member of a military family, Ryan moved around quite a bit as a child. Eventually attending college in Tallahassee, he moved to Atlanta after graduation carrying his life savings of $287 and all his belongings in a Honda Civic. Staying with a friend in Atlanta, he got serious about a job when he got down to his last $10 and took the first offer he got – working with a wine distributor in Orlando. It was there that a friend at Disney spurred him to become a certified sommelier.

Current Corks Wine and Spirits Location, Turkey Creek, Knoxville, September 2017

Current Corks Wine and Spirits Location, Turkey Creek, Knoxville, September 2017

He eventually moved to Knoxville where he began work selling medical devices. His dream to open a wine store came true five years ago when he got a license and opened Corks. He says that grocery store wine sales have decimated wine stores and his is no exception. Whereas he’d considered a second location, he became convinced that the boutique wine business he wanted could be more successful in Knoxville’s downtown, feeling it would be a good fit for the area and also just a bit farther from grocery stores.

His approach is to treat the store as a hospitality business. He doesn’t use the word, “customer,” as it carries a connotation of a commodity. He prefers the term, “guest.” The hope is that any trip inside his establishment will result in guests learning something new about wines while, hopefully discovering a wine they will love. He hopes they taste something new and are able to get a better quality of wine at their price point.

Current Corks Wine and Spirits Location, Turkey Creek, Knoxville, September 2017

Current Corks Wine and Spirits Location, Turkey Creek, Knoxville, September 2017

The downtown store will be similar in many respects, but it will be about half the size of the west store which is around 5,000 square feet. Customers familiar with the west location will recognize the music playing on vinyl albums when they enter. New and old customers will also find an interesting feature not commonly available in area wine stores: 27 different wines on tap. The taps are very high quality wines Ryan is able to buy from remnants of production runs and sell in liter containers at a reasonable price – much like beer sold in growlers.

Interestingly, they also plan to carry some convenience items for the neighborhood, such as Cruze Farms Milk, locally sourced eggs, Flourhead bread and other basic items by producers you might find at the farmers’ market. It’s not meant to be a grocery store, but a small help to get through the week if you run short of something.

Owner Ryan McElveen, Future Home of Corks Wine and Spirits, 113 S. Central Street, Knoxville, September 2017

Sourcing locally is one thing the store tries to do where possible. He said they’ve always felt like their vibe fits downtown and vise versa. Ryan said, “We want to be a good steward of this region when we have the opportunity. Obviously, the primary product isn’t generally local. But they have locally sourced ancillary items such as bitters and syrups. You’ll also find regionally crafted leather wine bags, for example.

The build out of the store should start this fall, with a planned opening on January 2. Hours are planned to be 9:00 AM 0 11:00 PM. He said you can expect all-day tastings and special featured wines on a regular basis. You’ll find their Facebook Page here and you can check out his sommelier skills on October 10 when he goes Somme vs Somme with Matt Burke of the Old City Wine Bar


Downtown Knoxville Ten Day Planner (9/24 – 10/3/2017)

If you want to be certain your event is included on this calendar, I’ll need your event two weeks in advance. The absolute best way to make sure I include your event is to make a FB event and invite me – two weeks in advance. My FB “events” are the … [Continue reading]

A New Business Announces Plans to Come to Gay Street

It didn't take long after the departure of the Cruze Farm Milk Bar from 408 Gay Street, for word to start circulating of a pending shop to take its place. Through a summer that often saw lines out their doors, there was hope among some ice cream … [Continue reading]

Recode Knoxville Gets Serious

A public meeting was held on Tuesday to detail the progress made by the Camiros Consulting Group on the current effort to re-write Knoxville's codes into a more unified, understandable and consistent set of codes. The idea is to make the codes … [Continue reading]