Demolition and Construction Set for Central Street in the Old City

Buildings set for demolition - 120 through 122 Central Street, Knoxville, November 2015

Buildings set for demolition – 120 through 122 South Central Street, Knoxville, November 2015

Last May a group made an initial presentation to the Downtown Design Review Board detailing their plans to demolish the buildings at 120 – 122 Central Street and replace them with an attractive three-story building. The plans have changed since that first report and now include a larger, four story, brick building. The project is in motion and demolition should begin this Sunday unless something changes.

I met with Daniel Smith one of the developers behind Next Step Development, a group organized for this project. Grieve and Assicates architects drew the original and modified plans and Next Step is in talks with Creative Structures for the construction. The group is excited to get started with what they feel will be a significant contribution to the Old City.

Elevation 2

Side View of Planned Building facing Willow Street at Willow and South Central

There are several significant changes in the project as it will go forward, when compared to the original proposal. The most readily apparent is the addition of a fourth floor. Initially, the group presented a three-story structure to be relatively consistent in height with the nearby buildings, but it became clear that the Downtown Design Review Board felt comfortable with a taller building and it was expanded.

Smaller changes have also been made in the plan, including the addition of set of stairs at the front end of the building. This gives a set  at each end of each floor in addition to an elevator in the rear. Another change, which I believe many of you will greet positively, is the removal of a residential space on the bottom floor facing Willow. It will be replaced with a retail space.

The bottom floor will now be entirely retail and the group plans to retain ownership of this space, while selling the units above. As currently envisioned, there will be three retail spaces facing the street. Two will face Central and will include 3500 square feet in the corner space and 1900 square feet in the second. The new retail facing Willow will have about 1200 square feet of space. Depending on tenants, these figures could shift to accommodate needed space and configurations.

Floor Plans for Floors 2,3 and 4, Residential Units

Floor Plans for Floors 2,3 and 4, Residential Units

The three upper floors will include five condos on each floor for a total of fifteen housing units. Each unit will be two bedrooms and two baths and will feature tile in the baths, granite counter-tops and hardwood floors. Each of the three floors will have the same plan. Each floor will include two 1100 square foot units facing north  and three 1300 to 1400 square foot units facing south.

While prices are not firmly set, the hope is to keep the six facing north at a price point somewhere below $300K, while the larger units facing south will likely range from the low to mid $300K range. It’s a price that would be in line with other prices downtown, but would offer hard-to-find two bedroom, two bath designs.

As stated earlier, the timeline includes the beginning of demolition this Sunday. Demolition will take about three weeks, slowed in part by the fact that one of the two buildings coming down sits against another property owner’s building and care must be taken not to extend the damage. Assuming that portion of the timeline is accurate, construction – subject to damp weather delays – would begin in December with a projected eleven month duration.

Front of Proposed Building Facing Central at 120 and 122 South Central

Front of Proposed Building Facing Central at 120 and 122 South Central

Financing, an issue that sidelines many well-intentioned projects is not an issue. Daniel said Clayton Banks has been easy to work with, not requiring pre-sales as a condition of the loan. Pre-sales will, however, begin right away and early purchasers will have the possibility of not only influencing finishes, but also design. He indicated a project of this size is treated differently than a more massive project in which the bank might require pre-sales. Still, it seems hopeful that local banks are confident that, at least in this current era for downtown, if you build it, they will come.

So, in a year that has seen the first parking lots turn to buildings with the Marble Alley project, we have a race to see who will complete the first mixed-use, ground up construction in the modern Knoxville era. In addition to this project, others have been announced on Depot in the form of three small mixed-use buildings representing the first new construction for Dewhirst Properties and the previously mentioned – and of a scale all its own – project on the former Regas parking lot. It should be a fun race to watch.


  1. David Gresham says:

    I can’t believe they aren’t going to have a rooftop garden or pool.

  2. Here is a current News-Sentinel article in which Anne Wallace states that the planned utility improvements do not include removing the poles (H/T


    The City is hosting a public meeting today at 5:30 at All Occasions Catering, to discuss their proposed streetscape improvements for Central Street from Magnolia to Woodland.

    The improvements include great landscaping, sidewalk, bicycle-lane, and parking improvements as well as street-cement narrowing. They DO NOT, though, currently include moving the utilities off of the street.

    They note that this is due to a lack of funds. That’s certainly understandable. HOWEVER, to improve all the rest of the street while leaving the utilities to mar the streetscape seems to me like a job half-done. If it’s not done while the road is already otherwise closed, it will require a second closure and additional expense to do it later.

    I can’t attend the meeting tonight; but if I could, I would request the City and its funding associates try very, very hard to include utility-pole work in this project. I think that if the City doesn’t have the funds to do the whole 12-block project ‘right,’ they should segment the project into phases, so that they can do true justice to the streetscape in smaller segments, as funding becomes available.

    A link about the meeting:

    Redevelopment director:
    Dawn M. Foster,

    Anne Wallace,

  4. More great news for the Old City! We are excited about the creative development of the entire area from Gay Street through the Old City to an area formerly better known as “no man’s land’ across the tracks. And it’s good to see condos in the mix as we need more variety in terms of downtown housing options. I’m still wondering though, why some of the most valuable and beautiful land in the city is left empty for parking lots along the river above Neyland. It would be great to see some development on the north bluff of the river that does not involve churches or city government.

  5. Cool. With these new storefronts and several new ones on Jackson, entrepreneurs have an opportunity to do interesting things in the Old City.

  6. Very excited about this project! Also seems to be very under the radar outside of your updates. It is nice to see a project expanding in size from the original announcement too.

  7. More good news for downtown! This a handsome structure and the exact kind of development Knoxville needs. But perhaps more significant is the fact that the developers were able to secure financing. With luck, this represents a new new attitude on the part of lenders. Downtown needs more condos.

  8. Old Buckeye says:

    Forgive my ignorance–I’m an out-of-towner who’s only been in that area a couple of times. What used to be in those storefronts? Did they move elsewhere?
    Out-of-towner now but watching all these developments has me considering urban living in Knoxville!

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      The buildings have shifted a bit over the years, of course, but the smaller of the two has been a cigar shop for years and the larger housed remnants of Big Don’s Elegant Junk – which was a decades operating Old City Staple across the street for a number of years. Those remnants became Big Don’s Costumier and they have moved over to Jackson, though I’ve never caught them open, try as I might.

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