I’ve been sitting on some photographs for a while that might be of interest to some of my readers. As a member of Knox Heritage, I’m sometimes allowed, along with other members, to tour buildings in various stages of renovation. Some of them simply sit at the idea stage and some of them are finished or nearly finished products. Recently, as a part of one of these events, the underground section of Gay Street’s western side was opened for viewing.
In case anyone reading this might not know, the 100 block of Gay Street was elevated about 100 years ago in order to allow a viaduct over the rail yards making passage easier for cars. At the same time a viaduct had to be constructed for Jackson Avenue to cross Gay Street at its new elevation. With this change, several floors or so, depending on the spot on the block, became submerged beneath the new structure. Over the years this “underground” area has been the object of much interest, speculation and story-telling.
A couple of years back the structure on which the block now rests had to be completely re-worked. One hundred-year-old pilings crumbled steadily and wiring and pipes supporting utilities on the block needed repair desperately. The massive undertaking resulted in a much more attractive, stable and functional block. While nothing was done during the construction to develop the potential of the underground area, care was taken not to destroy any of it that remained viable, though much of it was already taken with the under-structure of the block.
Last January I wrote a post about the potential development of the area with the view primarily from the outside – underneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. The photographs shown here from the outside are from that post. Some of the entrances seem ready to be refurbished for cool bars or coffee houses or even shops. A large parking lot sits waiting for the call.
After walking through what was opened underneath on that side of the street, it was clear that some of the space will be part of the development of the Three Feathers building on the corner, but other spaces appear just waiting for the right idea. Much of the usable space on that side is actually under the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, which I believe is due in the next months for its own makeover, though with access through one side and no buildings on that side, it should be a smaller project than that on Gay Street.
I do wonder what it will be like to live in the Armature Building and particularly the Three Feathers Building during construction on the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. Probably when the dust settles from that project, the potential for any “underground” development will become clear and then its a matter of the right person, idea and funding to open up a whole new side to the city.