In 2008, Regions Bank which had merged with AmSouth Bank, promised to fix it. By 2010, when I first blogged about it, Regions stated they intended to remove it – then they left the building. And in late 2012, after what I’m told was a dispute between the current building’s owners and Regions Bank over who would pay the $136,000 to do the job, apparently, the latter is becoming reality: the time and temperature display which many of us enjoyed for years, but which became dysfunctional years ago, is finally being removed from atop the William F. Conley Building at 505 S. Gay Street.
With little warning – I was told businesses on the block were given no advance notice – the 500 block of Gay Street closed on Saturday and remained closed on Sunday. Fortunately, there seems to have been limited impact on the businesses, but people driving through the city had to be frustrated with a closed block of Gay Street given that it has become the main thoroughfare south of the river with the ongoing work on the Henley Street Bridge. Compounding the traffic woes, workers scraped and re-surfaced Summit Hill on the north side of downtown beginning Friday night.
It seems the damage to the clock continued even through recent storms and pieces shed became potentially dangerous projectiles. I’m not sure if the city forced the concerned parties to get the work done, but it was clearly overdue.
The work seemed simple: cut the pieces into smaller pieces and take them away. One look at the size cranes involved, the height of the problem and the enormity of the former clock and what may seem simple became really a bit more complex. I haven’t seen it today, so I’m not sure they finished, but it didn’t appear to me that they would. I’m glad for it to be removed, but I certainly would not have wanted to be the welder cutting pieces from the top or the crane operator trying not to smash a several-hundred-pound piece of metal into the Regal Riviera or another of the buildings on the block.
While not as large an eyesore as the McClung Warehouses, it also remained clearly in view to everyone driving through the center city on I-40 as it sat atop the third tallest building downtown. I felt it signaled decay and a non-functional city, which I feel strongly is an entirely wrong impression of Knoxville. While I loved it during its functional years, I grew to loathe it after its demise.
It’s been decades since we’ve added an interesting building to our skyline. I’ll probably feel Knoxville is all the way back when we actually break ground and start building a new interesting sky-scraper. Until that happens and our skyline becomes more complex through addition, I’ll take improvements by subtraction. Could we make the next stop the McClung Warehouses?