Three Downtown Businesses Will Soon Be Forced to Relocate

Businesses Along the Western Side of the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

It’s a price of progress. While needed infrastructure tasks are completed which allow us to continue to grow, a price is sometimes paid. Jackson Avenue has been under re-construction and renovation for months and it’s been hard for the businesses and residents there. That looks nearly complete and it brings up the next infrastructure challenge: The Jackson Avenue Viaduct.

You know the one – the one with the brick ramps. It’s unique for our downtown and one of my favorite spots to ride my bike. Bouncing across the bricks I can pretend to be riding the cobbles in a small European town in the Tour de France. Actually, it scares me a bit, but I do think of those cobbles.

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

It was built at the same time the 100 block of Gay Street was elevated, in 1919. While the Gay Street Viaduct was replaced in 2005 and the structure under the 100 block was replaced just a few years later, the Jackson Avenue viaduct is the original. It has been given a “poor” rating by TDOT, which “qualified it for participation in the federal bridge replacement program.” This is from the city’s Jackson Avenue Projects site.

The timeline for its replacement has shifted a number of times over the years the project has been discussed, but Rick Emmett recently responded to a reader of this blog, who helpfully passed along the information, by saying, the RFP, “will probably occur later this year with construction beginning in the Spring.”

Construction on Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, August 2017

According to Rick, ” . . . this project is using State and Federal money so we had to have State and Federal historic review as well as environmental review. These processes and decisions pretty much tied our hands as to possibilities and are the reason for this long timeline.”

Regarding the bricks, I had understood, perhaps a year ago, that the bricks would not return. That decision has been reversed. Rick stated, “In short the ramps have to go back almost exactly as they are today because they were deemed historically significant and contributing structures to the buildings there that have historic tax credits associated . . . that will be included in our RFP. Earlier we did not think that was feasible due to age and condition of the bricks.”

I consider that good news as the bricks are one of the most distinctive features of that viaduct. Many of them are worn pretty badly, however, so I contacted Rick to see if they would use the original bricks or replace them with similar bricks. He told me the original brick will be returned. I assume some will have to be replaced with newer bricks and additional bricks will be needed because several large patches no longer contain the original bricks.

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

The Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

Patches on the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

All of which leads us to the businesses. It simply had not occurred to me, but it’s obvious with a moment’s thought: the businesses located along the western side of the viaduct, which open up onto that sidewalk, cannot operate during the destruction and reconstruction of the viaduct. The businesses include Castleton Farms wedding planners, the Happy Envelope and Status Serigraph. Not only will the construction be a problem – their entrances will be suspended in mid-air a floor above the ground for the duration.

The city has informed the businesses they will be given a ninety-day period during which to move starting when the city is certain they are ready to begin the proposal, bidding and construction process. They’ve been offered a couple of options to help defray the cost of relocating. The monetary assistance doesn’t apply if they move prior to that 90 days, so the businesses feel it is imminent, but can’t yet move.

I stopped in to Justin Helton’s Status Serigraph shop and found him working on several projects including the cover art for a new Grateful Dead six CD set. Business has been good for him in this location where he moved just a few days over four years ago. He’s looking for locations and hopes he might find one downtown as it’s where he feels connected.

Businesses Along the Western Side of the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, August 2017

Happy Envelope, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, August 2017

The Happy Envelope has announced their new location will be 4921 Homberg Drive, which seems to be a good fit for them, though I hate to lose them. They’ve been downtown since October 2010 when they moved into their original location in the Daylight Building. It’s been fun to see Sarah and Ty’s business grow and expand and we’ll wish them well.

No word on plans for Castleton Farms, the most recent of the business to locate along the viaduct.

So, three businesses will move and at least one of them will move from downtown. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of necessary improvements and all should be better withing about twelve to eighteen months after construction begins which, as of now, is projected for spring of 2018.

Notes About the Weekend:

The East Tennessee History Fair will be held (primarily in Krutch Park) all day tomorrow, starting at 10:00 AM. Music, history tours of downtown, movies with historical ties, reinactors, children’s activities and more will be available.

Knoxcentric: Powered by Inside of Knoxville will air, as always, at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning on WUTK, 90.3 FM and streamed at My guest will be Ellen Zavisca, Principal Transportation Planner with the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization. We’ll talk about pedestrian and bike safety and, particularly, crashes in and around Knox County.


  1. What an embarrassment it was this evening when I took my daughter and some friends to dinner downtown. They had an evangelistic preaching “band” preaching the gospel to EVERYONE and we could barely chew our food! It was so loud and overwhelming that we had to leave. If you want that type of thing then go to church. Not everyone believes the same and it s SO not right to shove that kind of thing down people’s throats! This is an embassasment to Knoxville and to the people around and that are moving here. Not everyone believes the same and it’s not right to do this type of thing. My goodness, it’s bad enough that this place has the worst air “quality” in the nation with no emission control and the littering is completely out of control, and you can’t even take in a breath without inhaling someone’s cigarette smoke. Come on Knoxville, get in to the 21’st century! I’m embarrassed to live here and am looking to get the hell out. Disgusting.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Wow. Sounds like you had a really bad night. We had a great day at the history fair and I don’t remember smelling cigarette smoke once. Great night last night on Market Square with several hundred others. Best wishes on getting out.

    • Chris Eaker says:

      Good work focusing on the negative. Knoxville has so much great stuff going on if you only take your negativity glasses of and see it.

    • I agree about the religious groups grandstanding in Market Square – not everyone has the same imaginary friend. They should not be allowed to use amplification or shout and a permit should be required, with all the participants listed and, if there are enough complaints they should not be issued one the next time. However, your embarrassment at the situation says more about you than it does about them. As for any smoking – I don’t like smoking either – but the world does not revolve around my every wish and demand with the sole goal of making me happy – so, there’s that. Two men and a truck have great rates BTW.

      • “Not everyone has the same imaginary friend”. Rather condescending to people of faith isn’t it? I don’t agree with people grandstanding the gospel out in public when I’m trying to eat either, especially if it’s a member of the predominant denomination in the area, but that doesn’t mean you and Giata have to insult people who believe differently than you.

    • Skandiatn says:

      I’m disappointed in your response to giata, seems like you are pretty content with how slow and narrow the Knoxville community continues to evolve. I moved here from a progressive city and have been let down by the cities lack of vision for downtown living, unless that involves UT. The city seems content on making the city all about student life rather the the community as a whole. Unless you are a student, downtown living is limited to a few lofts. I appreciate your folksy narrative on “what to do downtown” but not your reply to giata, ” your not happy here? Just move”
      I’m interested in seeing Knoxville develop into a more interesting, progressive city.
      Hang in there giata, your not alone! And no, I’m not moving.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

        I’m guessing I’m the one who disappointed you, but I’m not sure how. I don’t disagree with some of the criticisms leveled by Giata, but when a person says things like Knoxville is an embarrassment and “you can’t even take in a breath without inhaling someone’s cigarette smoke,” which isn’t true and she’s, “looking to get the hell out,” I’m not sure how to respond but to say I see it differently and wish them the best as they leave.

        You obviously have not read this site very long or very carefully if you think I am, “pretty content with how slow and narrow the Knoxville community continues to evolve.” I think it is safe to say I am just as interested in, “seeing Knoxville develop into a more interesting, progressive city,” as the next person. I’ve busted it writing several thousand articles over the last seven years to make that happen. I hope you are joining me in doing your part, as well.

  2. The 90 days that the city is using to restrict any reimbursement to the businesses that have to move does not seem fair. The city has changed the start date on this project several times. It seems to me if a business knows that it is going to have to move (now or 6 months from now) it should immediately start looking for a new space. Finding the perfect space is not necessarily just a 90 day project.

    • Chris Eaker says:

      I thought that was a very curious requirement, as well. If the project is going to occur, then why do the business have to wait? Why delay the inevitable?

  3. As someone getting ready to move to the Jacksonian, I am SO glad those bricks will stay. I just said the same exact thing while riding over them – they’ve always reminded me of Europe. Sad for the loss of those businesses and not looking forward to continued construction but some of the viaduct plans are gorgeous!

  4. Tim Lucas says:

    Are there any plans to open any sort of ‘Underground Knoxville’ development in the future? The space under the viaduct in to the ally and the basements of all the North Gay st. buildings would be awesome as a craft mall or gallery space.

    • There was an article a while back I think on WATE that said David Dewhirst had plans to redevelop and reopen the underground after the ramps were done.

  5. Chris Eaker says:

    I assume there is no possibility of access to these businesses from the rear of the building? I’m sure that was considered. What incentives did the city offer them?

    I’m curious about the picture of the underside of the west side of the bridge. I’ve walked by that many times and wondered if there was ever a business there. It looks like an old storefront. Do you know, Alan? And do you have any idea what will go underneath the bridges when they are rebuilt?

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