I’ve mentioned them before, but progress is being made on the first two projects to convert parking spaces to buildings (in one case a former building along with the surface parking). One is a bit more exciting and the other is more functional, but both are significant as we move along.
For the first couple of months, the Marble Alley Lofts site looked like mountains of dirt being pushed from one side of the site to the other. The site, most of you know, is bounded by South Central, Commerce and State. It does not take the entire parking lot, but it does remove a large portion of it. Prior to construction, it was an entire city block of surface parking, with one small exception: a sub-station occupies one corner.
It appears the mountains of earth are taking shape and concrete is starting to stake a claim to small portions of the property. As you can see from the photographs, one section even looks like it has plumbing. Certainly, it is poised to quickly begin taking shape as much of the initial work seems to be completed. Projected completion date for the 238 apartments (the site also uses the number “283.” Ground broke in July and completion is likely for early 2016.
It’s worth noting that the streets in this part of the city are a mess. Central is closed from Summit Hill to Union and State is similarly closed. They should be open, soon, and will be improved when they do open, as enhancements have been made in anticipation of greater traffic in this area.
The parking garage being built between Walnut and Locust at Summer Place is less sexy than two to three hundred new homes, but it has been deemed essential, as well. Like the Marble Alley site, the first months were given to shifting dirt and seemingly trying to coat the western edge of downtown in a thick layer of same. The noise has been deafening at times, as well. It has sometimes been audible on Market Square, so it’s easy to imagine what it must be like for the residents in that side of the Daylight Building.
The massive amounts of drilling and pounding structures into the earth have given way to less dirty and noisy activities as cement work has commenced and pre-cast walls and floors are being assembled on-site. A small portion of the facade is visible on the eastern side facing the Market Square Garage and it pretty well looks like a mirror image of the garage portion of that building, though, of course, it will have no residential component and very little retail space.
A few additional notes are worth making. Both the former KUB Building at the corner of Church and Gay and the JC Penney Building seem to have escalated their renovation pace. Floors are visible through the windows of the JC Penney Building where there used to be only an empty shell. The KUB Building now has a solid wooden front blocking any view of the lower facade. It actually includes two buildings that were merged during the KUB era and now may well be separated as they were originally.
Also on Gay Street, Josh Flory reported that the Farragut Hotel Building has officially been sold, though not to the developers from California. The person making the purchase is Rick Dover of the Family Pride Corporation. They’ve renovated Oakwood School as a retirement home and they will be renovating Knoxville High School, as well. The indication from Mr. Dover is that the building will likely have multiple uses from retail to condos to senior housing and perhaps a portion of it could be a hotel. Jack Neely has a thoughtful follow-up in this week’s Metro Pulse looking at uses and the potential benefits to having some actual old people around the city. It’s an idea I tend to support for personal reasons.
Finally, there’s another of those “Ain’t Knoxville Great?!?” articles circulating. It’s in the Memphis Daily News and touts downtown Knoxville as a tourist destination. We sound like a place I’d like to visit. Maybe I’ll do just that.