Among news items in recent months are a couple of additional developments on the southern side of the downtown area which I wanted to mention. Two properties on Church Avenue, a block off Gay Street are getting some positive attention of different sorts, while one of 2012′s best success stories is just around the corner.
Knox Heritage, as recently as 2006 listed two buildings near the intersection of Church Avenue and State Streets as endangered. Both had been condemned and fallen into severe disrepair. One proposal had the Glencoe, located directly across the street from the First Presbyterian Church, being demolished in order to provide better truck access to the rear of the Tennessee Theatre. Fortunately, preservationists won that bout and the Glencoe, built as residences in 1906, is now a gorgeous, fully occupied building.
Just around the corner on Church Street, the Elliot had also been condemned. I went in it a few times in the late 1980′s and found it to be a sad shambles. Housing people who were just above being on the street, it smelled bad and filth filled every corner. Still, the bones clearly shined through and this once beautiful building, built in 1907 for residential and commercial space, virtually screamed for help.
Help has arrived. Following the success of the Glencoe, the Elliot is currently under renovation and units are being sold. The first was placed under contract last summer. With new residents in the Elliot, this section of the city becomes more attractive with residents also filling the Glencoe, the Keystone and new residents coming in 2013 to the Arcade Building just around the corner on Gay Street.
There is still work to be done, however: the old KUB building, where I remember hand delivering my payments in the mid 1980′s (doesn’t that seem quaint in 2013?), needs love and attention from someone. I’d love to see the facade returned to it’s original appearance, though I suppose some might feel the green gloss bricks represent an era to be preserved.
An additional development in the area has the potential to be transform that section of town even further. The vacant lot across from the Elliot, which used to boast a building that housed the Knoxville News Sentinel changed hands late last year. According to Josh Flory, “Atlanta-based development firm Paramount Hospitality Management in August bought a lot at State Street and Church Avenue for $1.1 million, and the company plans to build a 120-room Residence Inn by Marriott on the site.”
So, taking yesterday’s blog post regarding the Medial Arts building and 70 – 75 new residences in that building and a 120 room hotel on Church – which, by the way, will target people who are in town for a longer stay – that’s a lot of foot traffic streaming from one end of downtown to the other as these visitors and residents walk down Gay Street and toward Market Square. Might that not spur more development with increased foot traffic.
Finally, a follow-up to yesterday’s mention of the Medical Art’s Building and its transformation from commercial to residential space. WATE reported yesterday that at least one professional, dentist Dr. Marsha Hickey is not happy with being displaced. She is moving to Cherokee Mills just off Sutherland, but felt her practice was growing and doing well in the center city. The report also indicates that the developer feels the units will be ready by the end of this year – which sounds ambitious, but very good news if it works out.
The WATE video is interesting viewing and a reminder that one person’s progress is another person’s pain. After all, parking lots downtown were once seen as great progress even as we knocked down great, irreplaceable buildings. Knocking down entire neighborhoods to build James White Parkway and other road seemed good – and maybe they were, but progress has a price and we need to pay attention to the balance as we go.