Downtown Knoxville Project Updates

Keener Lighting, Broadway and Jackson, Knoxville, 2014

At least a couple of times a week someone asks about one project or another, wanting updated information. Often the request comes because of an apparent lack of progress. Projects have certainly died on the vine in the past – like the oft cited Sentinel Tower, which may have never been a serious project – but usually optimistic developers and investors hope for an earlier finish date than is actually possible. Sometimes the delays are typical and sometimes they are unusual, but nearly every project has them. Here are updates on a few I’ve been asked about recently.

Keener Lighting Building (701 World’s Fair Park): A number of you have your eye on this property which was purchased by Dewhirst Properties last year. It’s an attractive building with a lot of potential. I’ve seen activity there recently and some of you mentioned the same and asked what’s going on. I spoke to Mark Heinz who said the activity currently underway relates to the facade only. The group received a facade grant from the city and they are implementing the improvements. The wooden windows are rotten and brick and stone are falling off. The group is also replacing the store front. No definitive plans have been made for the building and he added that the same is true for the First Christian Church Building and Kern’s Bakery.

The Crozier, Corner of Central and Willow, Knoxville, January 2017

The Crozier (Corner of Willow and Central): My most recent update was to give you details on the new designIt seems like a long time since I first wrote about the plans, back in November 2015. The project ran into delays with the realization that additional work would need to be completed beneath ground level to support the building. With that realization and the understanding of what would be required, came the idea to utilize the changes to incorporate a basement and an additional floor. The biggest news is evident in the photograph, which is about a week old: the structure has emerged from the ground. One of the partners in the development, Daniel Smith says there should be a website, soon, to market the condos, and the current expected completion date is December.

Tombras Building, Gay and Church, Knoxville, February 2017

Tombras Building, Gay and Church, Knoxville, February 2017

Tombras Building, Gay and Church, Knoxville, February 2017

Former KUB Building/Tombras Building (Corner of Gay and Church): I don’t have any inside information here, I just wanted to post a photograph of the work, so far. It’s remarkable to see an older building stripped to its bones. Various layers of the different renditions of the building have been removed, preparing it for the building it is to become. As quickly as this phase has gone, it’s clear this project is moving rapidly.

Enterprise Car Rental, Summit Hill and Central, Knoxville, October 2015

Merchants of Beer (Corner of Summit and Central): I spoke to Henry Sadiq, a partner in the project that has seemed to go nowhere for months. The initial projected opening date was last fall for the project I first described here. It is still on track and, according to Mr. Sadiq, “Unforeseen delays in design review and permitting combined with the time of year influenced our decision to revise our opening timeline. Good news is that, yes, the project is underway and we are aggressively pushing for a March opening.” He went on to say details would soon be forthcoming for readers of this blog.

Future Home of Marriott, Corner of Church and State, Knoxville, February 2017

Future Home of Marriott, Corner of Church and State, Knoxville, February 2017

Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott (Corner of Church and State): This project, which I detailed last May, has been the subject of much speculation and not a little skepticism. I spoke to Rick Blackburn who will serve as Owner’s Project Manager. He said the work people have recently noticed there is, indeed, the preliminary work to prepare the site. They’ve installed erosion and silt control and grading has started. An official groundbreaking will be held later in the spring when there’s a better chance of good weather. Construction is expected to last about eighteen months, beginning now, so completion should hit sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Two small additional bits: Regas Square Condos (corner of Depot and Gay) has a groundbreaking ceremony next week and sales of condos are underway and strong. The Knoxville High School project is also moving forward. A lengthy delay involving windows has been resolved. The National Park Service would only allow window replacements if they were identical and nothing like them are currently manufactured. Ultimately, the decision was made to repair versus replace.

I hope that answers some of your questions. I’ll bring more detail as I have it. Are there other projects you’d like to see updated? Let me know and I’ll see what I can find.


  1. Darrell cox says:

    Looks like the condos at the old Baptist hospital site are not gonna be all that nice nor as dramatic as the original plans and it looks like they’re building a parking garage there that is gonna ruin the look of the building. Also a lot of downtown is being ruined when they’re calling a lot of buildings historic and saving them when actually they’re just old ugly buildings that need to be torn down and let a new skyscraper be built. One example is the greygound bus terminal. Geez! Also a lot more could have been done with the new hotel on state street if that old ugly flower shop we’re torn down. How dramatic it would have been to have the entrance to the hotel there from gay street. Now a lot of good is being done to true unique gems like the Farragut building but a lot of buildings are being saved that are just not unique enough. Also the core of downtown is basically very small and these new condo developments are just being built too low. I frankly love a dramatic skyline but with downtown space running low and these small buildings being allowed to be built 5 or 6 stories, I don’t know what the city and the developers are thinking. A dramatic 30 or should I even say 40 story tower where the Greyhound station is would look great. I actually love historic preservation if the building deserves it but a lot of what they are doing just doesn’t make sense!

    • Tazwon Haworth says:

      I agree 100% you can’t even hardly see downtown until you get right up on it.C’mon folks time to step up under Nashville. The only city in Tennessee that actually should be called a downtown area. Get some taller buildings going please.

  2. Darrellcox says:

    I was going past the construction of the new condos by regas square the other day and asked a construction worker if they were gonna tear down the free service tire building which I just said.( that building ) cause I didn’t know the name of it. He said no because it had just had a new roof put on it. I told him it was gonna look awful next to the new condos.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      It was recently purchased, I believe, and will not look the same when it is finished. I expect it will be the “next cool space” at some point. 🙂

  3. Someone please tell me: Just what was KUB thinking when doing that original façade so many years ago? Was their architectural firm Butt & Ugly?

  4. Central Street streetscape??

  5. Jim Williams says:

    Clinch River Brewing Company has begun demo work on the first floor of The Holston building on the corner of Gay and Clinch. Brien and Lisa are targeting an opening toward the end of April. Low country cuisine and craft beer soon!

  6. Dee Pierce says:

    Members of the River Hill Gateway Neighborhood Association believe another downtown Marriott will likely hurt business at the Marriott Hotel on the riverside. Rumor indicates it’s already for sale. Could you or perhaps Bill Lyons update us on any news about the current downtown Marriott? And if it’s for sale, I hope city leaders will help market the property to businesses which will strengthen and enhance the riverfront and this community.

  7. William Pender, Senior Pastor says:

    First Presbyterian Church has been comfortable being at the intersection of Church and State for more than 200 years and looks forward to welcoming the future neighbors at the Courtyard and Residence Inn. As an update, we are now making a “soft entry” into Phase 1 of our renovation (closest to Church and State) and will do a more formal re-dedication soon (likely in March). We are about halfway finished in our $10+million renovation. We certainly join the excitement of all that is going on downtown–the congregation has been serving Christ in the heart of Knoxville since 1792.

  8. Phillip Jennings says:

    Any updates on the long delayed Century Building? I think owners of that building are also doing the Kress Building. A wall was put up in front of the Kress Bldg but I never see or hear and actual work being done. Any updates on these two properties would be appreciated.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      The short answer is that I don’t have any new information about these buildings. The long answer . . . is just too long. I’ll see if I can learn anything.

      • Basically the dude who owns all those properties just buys stuff and lets it sit there for no reason, to put it bluntly. Morristown college, Kress, Century, and probably East Town Mall now as well

        • A lot of progress has been made on the Kress building. Totally new facade for the first floor. Take a peek behind the plywood when you walk by.

          • Oh progress is actually being made? Well that’s a first for pretty much… anything with this guy’s name on it

  9. I often wonder about projects as I am riding or walking around downtown. Then I say to myself, well, Alan will get to that. Thaks for all you do.

    One question though. Have you given any info on the projects to put the bricks in certain segments of the sidewalks on Gay? (I might have missed an earlier report.) What is that tar-looking stuff the bricks are laid in? And when will that be finished?



    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I have mentioned it, but I don’t have those details. I think I remember the intention was to have the sidewalks finished before the beginning of festival season – which is coming very soon.

    • The tar-like stuff is a water proofing material. Many of the buildings along Gay St have basements that extend out under the sidewalks. Bricks are nice to look at but far from water proof!

  10. Alan Cheatham says:

    Very informative. Answered a lot of questions I had this morning as my run passed several of these projects.

  11. Great to hear all the updates.

    Does anyone know what they are doing to the lower level of the parking garage on State St (across from Marble Alley Lofts).

  12. Bill Lyons says:

    A bit of information: David Dewhirst did close on the Free Service building. This is an excellent outcome. I also need to point out that the TIF for the Tim Hill development in the gap on Gay Street between Mast and the Century building still must get approval from County Commission. The KCDC board and then City Council have approved to this point.

  13. Assuming you’ll probably have a story on the condo building next to Mast that got the TIF approved this week later on? Excited to see some renderings and such.

  14. Pretty interesting that the Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott will lead to greater connection between Church and State without any big drama. (couldn’t resist)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Is there any word on the free service tire building behind Regas Square? I heard Dewhirst bought it as well

  16. Ron Sharpe says:

    Thanks Alan—all projects I’ve been wondering about recently! The scope of redevelopment in downtown is pretty amazing when you look at all the major projects in progress at the same time! Go Knoxville!

  17. Appreciate the updates and thanks for all that you do. I do have one question and this might not be the right place for it. With all the work going on downtown and the preservation of historical facades and buildings with Knoxville city/county involvement, why hasn’t more been done for Knoxville College?

    It is one of, if not some of the most important Reconstruction-era buildings/grounds in the greater Knoxville area. The dorms, not so much but the main buildings. Not many buildings in the greater Knox area date back to that time. Thanks for any news that you can provide on that topic.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I will try to get current information. My memory says there were quite a few reports about a year ago about groups trying to save the buildings, but the current owners were not on the same page.

  18. As a life long Knoxville resident, I am thrilled with the pace of these projects and those already underway. There are quality construction projects all over downtown. The vibe is exciting in our not so scruffy city. Just in time for our out of town guests for Big Ears. Thanks for the updates Alan. Two thumbs up!

  19. Seriously hoping merchants of beer decides to raze the old diner building. Honestly the biggest eyesore of our downtown

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