A Look Inside the Keener Lighting Building + Future Plans

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

A reader joked the other day that I must get tired of writing about one building and being asked about ten more. I don’t, really, but it is hard to keep up with all the construction and various projects underway around downtown. Still, I find it a pleasure to climb through old buildings, learn about their history and their future and bring it to each of you.

One of the persistent questions for the last year or more has been, “What’s going on at the Keener Lighting Building?” And for that, I’ve finally got some answers. Mark Heinz gave me a tour of the building and a glimpse of future plans. The building is owned and being redeveloped by Dewhirst Properties.

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

The building, located directly across Broadway from Balter Brewing and Southeastern Glass, was long the home of Keener Lighting. The front included a showroom, offices sat behind that and the bulk of the building was warehouse space. Incredibly (to me, at least), it has been closed over three years now. When I reported the closure, I noted the business had been at that location for forty-one years. The owner of Keener Lighting said he thought it originally housed a Firestone franchise.

The 1920s building is quite large, including about ten thousand square feet each in the basement, ground floor and upstairs. An old freight elevator connects the three floors, but cannot be salvaged as a part of the reuse of the building. Extensive damage also had to be remediated on the facade facing Broadway.

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

A line of stone had long since crumbled (it was covered over in the photographs I took three years ago), and that is being restored. Part of the wall is currently bowing and will have to be rebuilt. The transoms were rotten. The roof is an arched roof and the parapet surrounding the edge has captured water at one corner doing extensive damage there. The rear windows of the building had been covered in cement block which has now been removed.

With Whitney Manahan acting as lead architect, Dewhirst Properties is working in conjunction with the LMU Duncan Law School to provide student housing for the prospective lawyers. LMU has a bit over 300 students in the three year program and first preference will be given to seniors starting next August, when the building is expected to open. If LMU students do not take all the units, the remainder will be offered at market price to the public.

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

Original Frieght Elevator, Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

The school felt a need for parking and for nearby housing and has already begun use of the parking area behind the building. Having a significant number of students within walking distance will reduce the strain on the limited parking they have available on the hill.

The building, when it is complete will have thirty-three units and a single commercial space on the front. The apartments will include efficiency, one bedroom and a limited number of two bedrooms. Not particularly suitable for a restaurant or other use, the commercial space may also be used by the university.

View from Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

View from Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

View from Keener Lighting Building, World’s Fair Park Drive and Broadway, Knoxville, August 2017

It’s similar to the Electric Company Loft building in some respects. Construction is concrete and steel. Interestingly, the second floor was poured as one giant slab of concrete. It’s cracked along the beams and Mark says that probably happened within the first couple of years after construction as the building settled. Those cracks are being filled, but present no structural issue.

The concrete construction will make for better sound-proofing for residents and the massive windows will provide great light for the homes. The primary entrance for residents will be on the back side of the building, though another entrance will be constructed off World’s Fair Park Drive. A corridor will extend the length of the building and two stairwells will provide mobility between floors. Ceiling will be very high and insulation will be put on the top of the roof.

Keener Lighting, Broadway and Jackson, Knoxville, 2014

When completed, it should look better than it has in at least a generation and an additional forty or so downtown residents will be added to the north side of downtown proper.

Comments

  1. Fred/Tom Burton says:

    I worked at the Keener Company from 1959 thru 1961. First at 825 Broad St then at 526 Western Avenue, but only called on them from 1986 thru early 1990 S.as a customer of mine.
    Spent 51 years in that Industry, and Thank Alex Keener for hiring me in 1959. I was only 22 years old. FTB

  2. In 1982, I was a junior in high school in rural Alabama and my high school band was chosen to march in one of the daily parades of the World’s Fair. We lined up in the parking lot behind Keenor Lighting; I will never forget it. A year later, I came to UT to college and never imagined 35 years later I would drive by that location every day on my way home from work. I fell in love with Knoxville and it started at Keenor Lighting.

  3. Oren Yarbrough says:

    One of my first memories of the Keener Building was getting lost as a Freshman at UT and walking down Jackson Avenue to look at the now destroyed McClung Warehouses. When I got to the end of the street by Broadway I was mesmerized by the amount of light being cast out of the Keener Building’s hundreds of light fixtures sitting beyond the massive wall of glass. I always made a point to drive by the store whenever I was in the area, especially at night, just to see the lights in the window. To have that storefront glowing once again would definitely add to the appeal of an already growing area of the city. Jackson Avenue is the face Knoxville shows travelers passing through on the interstate, so anything we can do to make the city more attractive from that vantage point is a plus in my book.

    As a side note I googled the McClung Warehouses to look at them after this memory sparked my curiosity. It’s an extreme shame that Knoxville lost such a beautiful treasure in the McClung site. The mixed use possibilities would have been endless. I can’t help but think of what Atlanta was able to do with Ponce City Market and Nashville with Cummons Station and how we could have had a W. Jackson Avenue that would have rivaled Market Square as a place to live, work, and play. Truly a sadly loss that I hope Knoxville will try everything to remedy with future development. That being said, thank you for sharing this great news about Keener!

  4. artist srudios. in my dreams.

  5. So no elevator? just stairs? not great for handicapped people but able-bodied students should be able to walk 2 flights!

  6. robert godfrey says:

    i work for keener lighting for 29 years in that building love seeing something done with it . its a big part of my life…

  7. I love this building so glad to see that Dewhurst has his hands on it. One of my knoxville heroes. I love that you guys keep us up on the building construction info. Kudos to all!

  8. More great news! Keep it coming. I agree too that the intersection of Broadway and Jackson is horribly dangerous. In addition to the many points of vehicular access to the intersection, the traffic coming from Henley is blind to the intersection until the last minute. The city has never seen fit to put so much as a pedestrian crossing lane or light there. What will it take?

    And thanks for plodding through all these structures. I bet you love it though, Urban Guy. I know I would. Like Jeremy I am very interested in the Free Service Tire changes as I have something of a vested interest in RS. So, I’ll pop the question too!

  9. Jill Green says:

    Perhaps a pedestrian bridge could be installed to cross over Broadway.

  10. I guess construction on this project be going forward during the replacement of the Broadway viaduct?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      They may overlap. I haven’t heard the most recent revised revision of the revised start date for the viaduct project.

  11. Let Us Drink Knox says:

    I know what’s happening behind regas square πŸ˜‰

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Is it pornographic or illegal? Or do you mean future development? πŸ™‚

      • Well, there have been prostitutes working the corner of Gay and Magnolia recently. They’re out there in the middle of the day on Saturday when I go by. Quite blatant, and surprising that close to downtown.

  12. Cool building, and love those huge windows. Unfortunate location — that intersection is horrendous.

  13. It’s nice to see Dewhirst hard at work again with all these projects. I hadn’t heard anything from them for a while. He’s one of the very best developers we have, and his genuine passion for improving downtown is obvious. I wonder what he’s doing with the free service building behind Regas Square. That could be huge.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      And I didn’t make it to 8:30 AM before someone asked about another building! πŸ™‚

      • It was more of a statement of curiosity. I’m sorry! I know you have a lot on your hands. No rush! I’m sure as soon as something does happen there you’ll be the first to let us know πŸ™‚

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