The Central Collective Comes to Life – And Has an Open House

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

When I first wrote about the plans for 923 North Central Street, or as it is now known, “The Central Collective,” readers might have been easily forgiven for thinking the entire project was a fool’s errand. When I showed the building to Urban Woman just over a year ago she said some equivalent of, “bless their hearts,” the southern equivalent for – in this case – “Boy, have they screwed up!”

919, 921 and 923 Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

919, 921 and 923 North Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The plans looked good on paper. The dreams for use of the space made sense. Shawn Poynter, who many of you know as one of Knoxville’s best photographers and Dale Mackey, who many of you know as a local tour de force of awesomeness and the empress of Dale’s Fried Pies, are a very talented, creative couple and it wouldn’t be like them to screw up this badly would it?

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 North Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 North Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Downstairs at 919, 921 and 923 North Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

But the building looked like a post-apocalyptic scene from a “b” grade science fiction movie set. Other than a good foundation, there didn’t seem to be much to recommend it. Random debris sat around on the floors of both levels. The top level couldn’t even be legally accessed, as they learned that the outside stairs were not on their property.

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Downstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The fact that they believed in this building and have now turned it into a shining star of that block is a testament to their vision. It’s also a lesson in preservation. They could easily have taken several tons of debris to the dump and started from scratch, but they chose to save everything possible and make the building probably more beautiful than it was when it was originally built.

Plans for 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, July 2014

Plans for 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, July 2014

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Dale Mackey and Shawn Poynter, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Dale Mackey and Shawn Poynter, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Thanks to an amazing design by Ric Mixon via WystWynd Designs and the Community Design Center and with a special thanks to the City of Knoxville’s Facade Grant Program and help finding a low-interest business loan, the building is now one of the most attractive structures in that part of the city. Dale and Shawn are particularly grateful to Rogers Doughty, Gwen Winfrey and Ken McMahon of the Community Development department.

Upstairs, 919, 921 and 923 Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Upstairs, 919, 921 and 923 North Central Street Before Renovation, Knoxville, July 2014

Upstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Upstairs, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The building will have three primary daily functions. Shawn will have an official photography studio in one portion and Dale will have a formal kitchen with space to cook, meet clients and run her business. Upstairs is a suite of offices which have been leased to the Center for Rural Strategies and the Daily Yonder Newspaper. Shawn works full-time for the Center for Rural Strategies, in addition to running his photography business and Dale works part-time for the organization in the Winter.

Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

View from the Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

View from the Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

View from the Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

View from the Deck, The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923  North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The building now features a great and expansive deck with views of downtown Knoxville and other portions of downtown north. The deck was added as a necessity – to which they did not object – because of the loss of access from the previously mentioned stairs. It’s turned out to not only be a fun space, but functional, as well. After a hard day recently, Dale stretched out on the deck for a few minutes of yoga, realized it was a great space for that and posted it to Facebook. Very quickly, Jennifer Beyt Coffin connected with her and organized a formal yoga class on the deck. You are welcome to join the next session this Sunday from 4:30 to 6:00 PM, just after Open Streets concludes on Central (for only $10!).

A workshop, “Herbal Solutions for Sleep  and Relaxation” with Kathy Burke Mihalczo is scheduled for November 5. Other events will likely be planned in one or the other of the sections of the building and much of it is available for rent as a small event space. You can expect events to be held there for the community, as well. When I mentioned how perfect the deck would be for a band with a party in the parking lot below, Shawn indicated that thought had already been discussed. It’s easy to picture the band playing above, Dale selling her fried pies, Shawn doing portraits in the studio and a generally good time for all.

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

The Central Collective, 919, 921 and 923 North Central St., Knoxville, October 2015

If you’d like to check out the building – and why wouldn’t you? – you’ll have your chance this Sunday when The Central Collective hosts an open house to coincide with the Open Streets event, which happens just outside their front door. Stop in and tell Shawn and Dale how much you appreciate what they’ve done and soak in just how far this ramshackle address has come in the last year or so.

Comments

  1. Hey Alan. I was the East TN Design Center volunteer and Architect of Record for the renovation of 923 North Central. I just wanted to tell you that your article was spot on and well written. Dale and Shawn are “saints” and not enough can be said for their perseverance in this endeavor.

  2. Really lovely!!

  3. Excellent work

  4. Amazing transformation, almost unbelievable!

    Great job!

  5. Thanks Alan. Fine work as always. We certainly appreciate the kind words. Looking back at those “before” pictures is almost panic-inducing in hindsight! Thanks to in the neighborhood for the support and patience. And to our saintly friends who spent a couple years soothing our fears and anxieties. We can’t wait to get started and hope folks will use the space for awesome things.

  6. Peggy Glenn says:

    Another great article. I have been watching the renovation since they started & it looks beautiful! I love the recent night shot, the lights really make the building show its new beauty. Wishing Shawn & Dale the best & I look forward to meeting them at Open Streets.

  7. 100% awesome.

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