Embassy Suite Details – And Three Favorite Local Businesses to Join Them at the Location

Conley Building, 505-507 Gay Street, Southwest Corner of Union and Gay, Knoxville, October 2017

It’s been nearly three months since the announcement that the Conley Building at 505 – 507 Gay Street would become an Embassy Suites. The long under-utilized building sits at arguably the most prominent intersection in the city and development, long overdue, had been entangled in legal wrangling between the owners. Very few details were included in the original announcement, but an implication that the project would be sensitive to its location and would include more than the hotel itself as a value for the site was intriguing.

Preliminary designs were revealed this week and the proposal holds some exciting details which were not previously mentioned and clarifies others. At street-level there are changes planned for each side of the building. Most minimally, the south side, facing Krutch Park would have vents for the kitchens and two additional doors for egress and a possibility was discussed for something further – some patio seating, but that would involve additional variances.

Proposed Plans for Embassy Suites, 503 – 505 South Gay Street, Knoxville, 2018 (View from Gay Street Above and from Union below)

On the western, or alley-facing side windows would be added where artwork has existed for a number of years. Windows would also be added to that end of the building along Union Avenue, allowing for a commercial space on that end of the building. The business which will assume that spot has not yet been determined. An entrance to the hotel will be situated along the Union Avenue side adjacent to this commercial spot.

The biggest changes are proposed for the side of the building facing Gay Street. A balcony is planned to replace the overhang currently covering the sidewalk on that side of the building. It would continue to provide cover for pedestrians passing below, but would also provide outdoor seating on the balcony which would stretch slightly further around the building than the current cover.

But it is what is inside and around the front of the building that offers the really big news.

Two well-known and beloved local businesses will occupy spaces just inside the front (and main) entrance to the hotel on the Gay Street side. K Brew plans to have a coffee shop, their third location, for both visitors and guests and, opposite them on the front of the building will be a new location (I’m assuming second location) for Makers Donuts. Guests will arrive through the front doors and pass between the two businesses before passing a water feature and indoor tree on their way to the front desk.

To the left (south) side of the front of the building will be two additional and separate entrances. One will lead to the elevator to the rooftop. Open for guests during the day, the space will be available for lounging and enjoying some of the best views of the city, as well as the planned roof-top swimming pool. At night the pool closes and the space will be open to the public and will be open as a full roof-top bar.

Proposed Plans for Embassy Suites, 503 – 505 South Gay Street, Knoxville, 2018

The other door leads to possibly the biggest news revealed in the plans: Long time downtown favorite restaurant, Knox Mason, chef Matt Gallaher’s original concept, plans a move from its original home on the 100 block of Gay Street to the featured mezzanine location in the Embassy Suites. The balcony seating mentioned earlier will be for their use. I spoke to Matt regarding the change and he said the following:

We have outgrown our space and . . .  We’ve had an amazing 5 years on our sleepy little block but it’s time for us to stretch our legs a little. The timing of the Conley Building project couldn’t have been more perfect so we’re very excited to be part of continued growth and development downtown.

Our Knox Mason team is a mix of seasoned veterans and eager and ambitious new faces and I’m really looking forward to see what they’re able to do in a bright, shiny new space. Obviously we won’t be able to replicate every little detail but our core has always been and will continue to be to represent locally sourced Southern cuisine with hospitable service.

But with more space we’ll be able to offer a larger menu, and your readers will be happy to know that our guests will benefit from a little more room to stretch out as well. We’ve been so blessed with the support at Knox Mason and Emilia over the years.

Also announced in the preliminary plans: The hotel hopes to have seating on the sidewalk in front of the Makers and K-Brew locations. That side – Gay Street – would also be the location for valet service for hotel guests. In the discussion, it was also made clear that, while they would like to have control of the property, the small parking lot to the west of the building between the alley and Krutch Park is not in their possession at this time.

The entire project only recently began demolition and is still roughly a year from completion, so all the details contained in the proposal from which these details were drawn are tentative. Numerous decisions regarding signage, windows, interaction with Krutch Park and more have yet to be determined. It’s possible some of the businesses named as partnering could change, though that seems less likely.

Comments

  1. This is one of the most exciting developments! This building is smack dab in the center of town. Long overdue for redevelopment. I am most interested in what they will do with the awful grey exterior and the top of the tower. It has looked awful all these years, and the building looks incomplete without a super toper. When you hear anything I will be watching for updates!

    • Anonymous says:

      I do miss seeing the time and temperature broadcast throughout downtown from the top of that building. It seems that the city or a private entity could provide something that would broadcast such information as well as upcoming events at the Coliseum and/or U.T. so that pedestrians or perhaps drivers on 1-40 could see.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

        A lot of us miss that. I’m certainly one. It won’t happen on the top of this building, however. On the positive side, do you remember the era in which the time and temperature sign was no longer functional, began to fall apart and remained on the top of the building for years? At least that was cleaned up.

        • Agree. Time/temp sign was terrible. Was just hoping something could be done with signage or other creative ideas to give the top some symmetry, Just looks strange to me, as if bldg.not completed.

  2. local coffee- local donuts- local fine dining (no televisions I hope 🙂 ) make for an even more attractive Knoxville!!!

  3. This is great news and I really like these sketches, but is anyone else bothered by lightpoles in sidewalks? Especially with all of the overhangs shown in the concept drawings it would appear that plenty of lighting could come from above rather than interrupting pedestrian traffic with lightpoles installed in the sidewalks.

    • Downtown Worker says:

      I like streetlamps. They add charm and define walkways. Overhead lighting can sometimes be harsh, especially if it’s halogen. Plus, it’ll give them something to decorate around the holidays.

    • I would also prefer not having light poles in the sidewalk, particularly if patio seating is also included. That area will get really crowded.

    • I think those are the current city owned and maintained street lamps that line Gay Street. I don’t think they would have permission to move the current or install a second set into the sidewalk.

  4. Love the local flavor, unlike the SBucks in the new Farragut. It’s great having a front row seat to the rejuvenation of downtown Knoxville!

  5. Bingo. Knoxville’s “100% corner” finally gets the mix of top-notch businesses that it deserves. Kudos to the developer! Maybe KUB will clear out of the first floor of the building across the street and we’ll really be cooking with gas.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Very punny. Actually, KUB has removed their offices from street-level in that building. Regions bank and Bliss sit on opposite sides of a vacant space and the lobby.

  6. Oren Yarbrough says:

    This is such an exciting project to follow. It is also nice to see that, despite completion still being a year away, that the construction has already begun and progress seems to go more quickly than usual for this city.
    The public rooftop, bar, and pool are exceptional amenities that I imagine will be insanely popular in the warmer months. I also would LOVE to see interior renderings of the lobby and other spaces. Reading about a live tree being in the lobby sounds like an interesting design concept I’d like to see more of.

  7. Downtown Friend says:

    Alan,
    Great news! Speaking of businesses surrounding Krutch Park, have you heard any developments on Clinch River Brewing’s downtown location? I’ve heard the Norris location is doing well, and was excited to hear about them coming downtown, but feel like I haven’t heard anything about their progress.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Nothing more recent than what you’ve heard. I’ll let you know.

      • Hey Alan,
        Very exciting update for downtown. The list of things to do in Knoxville just keeps growing. I can help with an update on Clinch River Brewing. As of yesterday, our final building permit is ready to pick up. Our NEW contractor is ready to go and hopefully the space will look like a disturbed ant hill in the next couple of weeks. We are cautiously anticipating an approximate 90 day build out. This project has been a steep learning curve for us and we feel forever indebted to all of our supporters for their patience and encouragement. Thank you Alan for providing a forum that keeps us informed of the great progress being made throughout Knoxville.

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

          That sounds exciting, Brien. I know many of us are excited to see the project completed – though none of us will likely be as happy as you guys! 🙂

  8. John LaMacchia says:

    Wow. K Brew coffee. A home run.

  9. Great news for downtown. I hope the entire project, including the restaurants, is successful. It is sad though that yet another business is leaving the 100 block. It keeps coming down to accessibility and the Summit Hill barrier. Restaurants just want to be where all the action is.

    • Thankfully businesses that close on the 100 block are quickly replaced, instead of being left vacant. Either way, I’m glad that a national hotel chain has found a way to incorporate successful local businesses. Just shows that it can be done.

  10. Well well well isn’t this news a wonderful surprise? A few of our favorite local businesses with prime new locations bringing yet another “dead”space back to life. Exciting times for Knoxville!

    I too do wonder where parking will come from for guests. State Street garage is due another couple of floors perhaps there. Would prefer underground parking somewhere instead of building these massive above ground garages.

  11. Rocky Ryan says:

    The giant hole next to Mast G S would be a great location for a multilevel garage and street level businesses. Seems like I read not too long ago that somebody has purchased this for some reason.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Interesting suggestion. 🙂

      • Sounds like you might know something about this Alan! 🙂 I wouldn’t be opposed to a garage on Gay Street, provided that it would be one of those like Marble Alley where the building wraps around the garage, or the garage is below street level, allowing mixed-use for the rest of the building. It would be really nice to see that hole finally get filled in though, because even if it was just a parking garage, anything is better than these useless surface lots that used to be tall buildings.

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

          I don’t know anything, for certain. I do strongly feel that no one would dare put an above ground parking garage on Gay Street. Below ground is another matter.

          • My sources, lol, tell me that a ten story residential/commercial building is in the works for the lot next door (we just built out the back half of the second floor above mast). I understand that building will include two floors of underground parking. UG reported all of this last year.

    • I would hope we don’t fill in prime retail/restaurant locations on Gay Street with filthy cars. No matter how much we may need parking spots this is not the best solution. Step one street more east where no one goes and put them there. As deep in the ground as can be done. I think the State Street Garage, though it could be another level or so higher, is well laid out for maximizing parking as well as not taking over a neighborhood as unfortunately as the one behind the Daylight Building has done.

  12. Downtown Worker says:

    Is Makers still associated with Remedy?

  13. So happy for this- especially the local business expansions. I can have a Kbrew & donut and/or a delicious meal. I just wonder where required hotel parking will be.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      This was asked when I wrote the first article. Parking will be valet and I don’t think it has been settled completely where the cars will be parked, but I don’t think it will be in the most popular garages. There are also a couple of garage expansions/new underground garages being discussed, so it may have no impact at all on public parking.

  14. Aaron Thompson says:

    Loving all the local business love!

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