Updated Plans for Baptist Hospital Site Revealed

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

A community meeting was held last night at Flenniken Landing in south Knoxville to discuss the plans, which include revisions, for the Baptist Hospital Site. Representatives of Blanchard Calhoun, including president Mark Senn and Davis Architects presented the plans and delineated the zoning variances they are requesting. A public comment period will continue for another three weeks before a final decision is made to proceed with the plans. About seventy people attended the meeting, which included at least twenty city officials and others involved in the project, along with reporters, leaving about forty or fewer interested citizens.

The plans, as they stand now, include continuing use of the building at the south end of the Gay Street Bridge as office space, but stripping its exterior and giving it a new “skin.” Balconies would be included in the redo, giving the building a more interesting texture. “Glazing,” which to ordinary people is the addition of glass, would be increased dramatically in the portion facing the street, removing a blank wall from the streetscape and the rear of the building, which has a glass atrium with a high ceiling will be marketed as a restaurant.

Meeting to Discuss Baptist Hospital Site Redevelopment, Flenniken Landing, Knoxville, November 2014

Meeting to Discuss Baptist Hospital Site Redevelopment, Flenniken Landing, Knoxville, November 2014

The restaurant would face the “riverwalk,” which is an elevated natural walkway just behind all the proposed structures. It has been moved from the riverside, with the thought that it was too difficult to access down the bluff. Joe Hultquist later, from the audience, pointed out that while this “esplanade” was nice and does connect with the river walk on the other side of the Henley Bridge (by an elevator, if I understood correctly), it shouldn’t be called a riverwalk because it isn’t at the same level as the other portion and an actual riverwalk will have to be built by the riverside at some point so people can bike and walk for a distance without such a change in elevation.

The central portion of the site will be 315 residences, which will be apartments, not condos. A small portion at the corner of Blount and Chapman Highway will possibly be retail. A concession the builders have made since the last meeting is that the variance they were requesting for a smaller percentage of “glazing,” has been withdrawn and they are now in compliance with the codes at a minimum of 70% glass frontage along the street. They have also made a number of the units taller on the ground floor to allow for a possibility of a shift to retail should the market dictate that change at a later time.

Mark Senn, President of Blanchard and Calhoun Presents Baptist Hospital Site Plans, Flenniken Landing, Knoxville, November 2014

Mark Senn, President of Blanchard and Calhoun Presents Baptist Hospital Site Plans, Flenniken Landing, Knoxville, November 2014

The structure, which will be five stories facing Blount and six stories on the back, will also include an internal parking garage which will not be visible from the street. It will include enough spaces for the majority of residents, with others parking across the street in the currently existing garage. Much of that garage will continue to be available for public parking. A tunnel and pedestrian overpass will be retained. Approximately one acre of space between the bridge and the new structure will be reserved for a park and event space overlooking the river. A pocket park will also be included along the backside of the apartments which will be open to the public.

The project also includes the southeast corner of Blount and Chapman and that corner will be developed as retail. Across Chapman, on the north side of Blount and adjacent to the bridge and river will be student housing. The portion of the student housing facing the intersection may be reserved for retail. The two portions actually include five buildings – three for student housing west of Chapman and two separate buildings for residences east of Chapman.

Sector Plans for the South Waterfront, Knoxville, November 2014

Sector Plans for the South Waterfront, Knoxville, November 2014

Sector Plans for the South Waterfront, Knoxville, November 2014

Sector Plans for the South Waterfront, Knoxville, November 2014

In the end, the project fits with the sector plans developed by the city. The sector is designated mixed-use, but that doesn’t mean that each structure has to be mixed use, though that is allowed. This portion is SW6 and is the Gateway to the City. The intention, according to Alan James of Davis Architects is to have mass and density, which he says this proposal provides.

They are requesting three variances, even though they took care of the glazing issue and dropped that request. One involves how the plot is technically divided. It’s doubtful to raise any public concerns. They have requested a variance in distance from the road (Blount). The idea here is that they don’t want a straight wall to run that far along the street, wanting instead to vary the face of the building which, as proposed will have small porches, similar to brownstones with room for planters. The final variance is for the percentage of required pervious surfaces. This requirement assumes parking lots and this project doesn’t include any.

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

Of the street, they said traffic counts are being examined, though as one person pointed out with the mess of a detour due to the demolition, not many people are currently using it. The traffic counts will be used to determine the ultimate width of the road, which is slated to include parallel parking and a median. They made it clear the intention is to have an active and walkable street.

The company has built similar projects and this one is typical of the others in that it includes a connection to a river or other natural attraction. They built hundreds of units on Savannah’s waterfront and are doing the same in Augusta. Their market research indicates that market rates are high enough for rentals to make the internal garage practical, which seems to have been critical to their willingness to pursue it.

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

Blanchard Calhoun Plans for the Baptist Hospital Site, Knoxville, November 2014

At the same time, they said the market would not support the hotel originally planned for the remaining office building. The indication was they really wanted to include that portion but simply could not financially make it work. They also indicated, in response to an audience question, that retail along the river would not be considered because it did not seem viable at this time.

A timeline was discussed, but it was vague. The intention is to have demolition finished in December – but it was originally June. Once that is complete the construction will start on the multi-family residences and work will begin on the office space. This phase is slated to take about a year. The student housing would follow that and would take about the same amount of time. He said for purposes of timing the student market, they would seek to finish those in July of 2016 if possible or 2017.

Comments are allowed through December 5 and may be addressed to Dawn Michelle Foster at dmfoster@cityofknoxville.org. If you have questions, you are directed to call 1-865-215-2607.

Comments

  1. KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

    While I’ll confess I had a more positive reaction to the project as it is than many of you who have commented here, I tried to write about the presentation as objectively as I could and exclude my opinions. I’m not sure my opinions are informed enough to contribute much. That said, it is critical that diverse opinions be heard – not in calling names, but in giving very specific reasons you object to the project and what would make it better. None of the kinds of comments made here were heard at the meeting and they could have been if you attended. I really hope that each of you with strong, and informed, opinions will contact the city while there is time to make a difference. I love our discussions here, but they won’t change what happens there. Here’s that last sentence, again, “Comments are allowed through December 5 and may be addressed to Dawn Michelle Foster at dmfoster@cityofknoxville.org. If you have questions, you are directed to call 1-865-215-2607.”

  2. This architectural and planning travesty is exactly what one would expect from an Augusta, GA suburban mall developer. On the bright side (for them), the 300+ apartments will probably get snapped up within a week of going on the market, even considering Marble Alley will be happening in the same time frame. The added population density downtown will influence a lot of things. I’m just sorry it has to come at such an ugly, uninspired price.

  3. Could they integrate some sort of outdoor performance venue into the plan? As in an amphitheater that looks out on the downtown skyline? Seems like it would be a great location to sit on a lawn and enjoy some music. I know these types of venues are profitable in other cities, and always hoped this site would have some kind of iconic ‘use’ that the rest of the development is designed around. I’m happy to see a couple of large ‘public areas’ in the design, but they seem like they might be specifically dead without any significant retail along the river or any other use that would activate the space on weeknights and weekends. For instance, couldn’t we use another central business area other than market square? Couldn’t it be nice to have a terrace overlooking the river that could become the ice-skating rink every winter (instead of blocking off the entire center of Market Square?) We have become so centered around Market Square and it seems like we could use another destination spot to pull people across the river to South Knoxville. I just don’t see these residential-centric public courtyards/squares being a destination spot for anyone but residents without a something more exciting (or numerous small retailers) to activate it.

  4. It’s hard to judge from those very simple elevations, but this looks like buildings that are going up in dozens of cities across the nation. Basic urban fabric, 21st century style.

    I like that the new garage will be buried inside a building. And that there will still be offices on site to provide a little daytime activity.

    It could be worse … they could’ve hired Frank Gehry to design a crumpled-paper-pretending-to-be-architecture building. ; )

  5. I’ve held my tongue on this one, but now I think it is time that I share my opinion. Bait and Switch!

    We were sold a grand project when Blanchard and Calhoun announced that they were tearing down Baptist Hospital. I’ve been relatively quiet about the preservation of Baptist because a) it’s an old hospital building and those are generally hard to repurpose and b) what they were proposing was very nice. I fell for it….again!

    Since time immemorial, or at least since the 1950’s, Knoxville has been sold more grand projects that resulted in a fizzle that I care to count. This looks to be one of them. Anyone remember this? http://insideofknoxville.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Rendering.jpg That’s what we were told was coming. Then it was downgraded to this http://insideofknoxville.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Overall.jpg . Now we’re being told that they’re building some bland, five story apartment buildings. Before this is over, I would not be surprised if we don’t just end up with a surface parking lot.

    I get it…free market, but this prime real estate could have gone to someone that could have gotten the big project done. Huge disappointment.

    End Rant.

  6. Allow me a passionate response that was not without consideration.
    Ugh!
    Awful, just awful. As if “coffee shop” had some sort of magical power to save south of the bridge.
    Nevertheless, aside from continuing the fine tradition of parking garages/lots the most horrific aspect of this planned “development” is that it is blatantly developer driven. The elevations make the buildings being built at UTK look good. If the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn got into a horrible car accident, these facades are what the scene would like. Hopefully the city will remove all traffic lights so we can all speed past these awful and out-of-context images (“designs” being an inappropriate term for whatever tragedy happened with ink and paper on those presentation boards).
    I apologize for the harsh criticism, but when are developers going to let architects be architects and when is Knoxville going to stop tolerating such demeaning fabrics to be woven into the community?
    Aside from the obvious congestion nightmare being created at the intersection ,we see such laughable proportions like the 0.8 acre “lawn” on the east side of Henley…. 0.8 acre, really? less than 1 acre of open space is appropriate, at best, for about 85 units, not 300+ units / and hardly a family friendly environment. This is the most blatant profit squeeze ever (i.e ‘suddenly’ available retail must be diminished)…now we just need the Mayor to announce Knoxville’s willingness to give them money to develop this community killer.
    I commend the presentation for trying to distract everyone with the always buzz-worthy notion of “riverfront development”….but that is still not enough silk for this sow’s ear excuse of a development.

    I am always weary of any presentation that includes phrases like “not viable”, “make it financially work”, and “market support”….these are warnings that not good and modern business practices are in the room.

    It would seem that the era of missed opportunities is not yet over.

  7. I’m a bit annoyed by the fact that they’re doing apartments, not condos, for any portion of the development. We’re already getting apartments at Marble Alley, it’d be nice to have some more residential property for those who want to *buy* in this area.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I’m starting to worry a bit about how heavy we are getting weighted toward rentals, as well. If something goes south in the city and I rent, I can leave without much problem. If I don’t like the direction of downtown but I own a home there, it’s harder to leave and I might be more inclined to try to fix the problem.

  8. I think this is a great step forward for downtown.

    It’s not perfect–current financial reality apparently reduced retail–but it goes a long way toward creating a livelier civic space. I’m glad they are planning ahead for possible retail conversions to some of the ground floor spaces. One solution to a potential problem there, in which changing the use of a property invalidates a bank’s mortgage agreement, is to ‘condominiumize’ the building. That is, give the ground floor spaces individually, or the whole ground floor, its own separate legal status and separate mortgage, easier to pay off or re-negotiate when the area can support more retail space.

    One question for Urban Guy: does that quoted 315 units include the student housing, or only the non-student apartments ?

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