Underground Knoxville: A Glimpse or Two

Underground Space, Western Side of the 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, July 2012

I’ve been sitting on some photographs for a while that might be of interest to some of my readers. As a member of Knox Heritage, I’m sometimes allowed, along with other members, to tour buildings in various stages of renovation. Some of them simply sit at the idea stage and some of them are finished or nearly finished products. Recently, as a part of one of these events, the underground section of Gay Street’s western side was opened for viewing.

Space Under Three Feathers100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, July 2012

Space Under Three Feathers, 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, July 2012, 

In case anyone reading this might not know, the 100 block of Gay Street was elevated about 100 years ago in order to allow a viaduct over the rail yards making passage easier for cars. At the same time a viaduct had to be constructed for Jackson Avenue to cross Gay Street at its new elevation. With this change, several floors or so, depending on the spot on the block, became submerged beneath the new structure. Over the years this “underground” area has been the object of much interest, speculation and story-telling.

Space Under Three Feathers, 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, July 2012

Entrance to Underground Knoxville Beneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, November 2011

A couple of years back the structure on which the block now rests had to be completely re-worked. One hundred-year-old pilings crumbled steadily and wiring and pipes supporting utilities on the block needed repair desperately. The massive undertaking resulted in a much more attractive, stable and functional block. While nothing was done during the construction to develop the potential of the underground area, care was taken not to destroy any of it that remained viable, though much of it was already taken with the under-structure of the block.

Entrance to Underground Knoxville Beneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, November 2011

Entrance to Underground Knoxville Beneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, November 2011

Last January I wrote a post about the potential development of the area with the view primarily from the outside – underneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. The photographs shown here from the outside are from that post. Some of the entrances seem ready to be refurbished for cool bars or coffee houses or even shops. A large parking lot sits waiting for the call.

Supports Under the Jackson Aveune Viaduct, Knoxville, July 2012

After walking through what was opened underneath on that side of the street, it was clear that some of the space will be part of the development of the Three Feathers building on the corner, but other spaces appear just waiting for the right idea. Much of the usable space on that side is actually under the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, which I believe is due in the next months for its own makeover, though with access through one side and no buildings on that side, it should be a smaller project than that on Gay Street.

Supports Under the Jackson Aveune Viaduct, Knoxville, July 2012

I do wonder what it will be like to live in the Armature Building and particularly the Three Feathers Building during construction on the Jackson Avenue Viaduct. Probably when the dust settles from that project, the potential for any “underground” development will become clear and then its a matter of the right person, idea and funding to open up a whole new side to the city.

Business Updates on Jackson Avenue (and a resulting ill-fated trip down East Depot which involves BEER)

Southeastern Glass, Broadway and Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

A few weeks ago I took pictures up and down Jackson Avenue with two goals in mind: Give an update of what was happening on the corridor and visit the roll out of Saw Works Brewing Company. I never quite got around to the first goal with everything else that’s been happening and the second goal came to an embarrassing end.

As for the business update, it’s really good I didn’t get to it, because more developments have come to light in the last couple of weeks. Most of these have been reported on Property Scope, Josh Flory’s excellent blog, but with a bit coming out here and another bit there, it seemed like a good time to put it all together in one overview.

Building along Broadway Viaduct, Knoxville, June 2012

For starters, just off Jackson on the Broadway viaduct over the train tracks sits a little row building. Josh had read my mind when he suggested that something cool could possibly be done with the strange little buildings perched beside the viaduct. I’d imagined shops, he imagined artist studios. In either case, the buildings sit atop another building that is slated for demolition as part of a TDOT bridge replacement project.

Corner Beer Pub, Broadway and Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

I reported on the Corner Beer Pub at Jackson and Broadway and within a week they were in the news with a new owner for the building – though the business didn’t change hands and retains its lease and plans to move forward. I’ve since heard from Bette Knight who tells me that they’ve finished a patio and added some serious Jenga and Corn Hole players to the clientele mix. Her husband noted that business has really been great recently. I dropped by on a Wednesday night and there were quite a few customers.

Southeastern Glass, Broadway and Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

Some potential new customers might be found across the street at the Southeastern Glass Building. Just three days ago it was reported that Synergy Business Environments  has purchased the anchor suite in the building. This fills the commercial space in the building and they will use their portion as a furniture showroom for local architects and designers. I’m told that all of the fifteen residential spaces are filled, with seven sold and eight leased but available for purchase.

McClung Warehouses, Knoxville, June 2012

Just down Jackson sits the McClung Warehouses, a key to re-development of Jackson Avenue. Knox Heritage lists them as number seven on their endangered list and gives a pretty good accounting of their potential and the struggles surrounding their redevelopment since the fire that destroyed a major portion of the buildings. Personally, and this is all hunch and absolutely no insider information, I believe the city will act to take the buildings in the very near future. They are just too important and too visible to allow this situation to continue.

Three Feathers and Armature Buildings, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, June 2012

At the intersection of Gay and Jackson, work continues on the Three Feathers Building and the Armature Building. The last I heard on these projects, the developers were hoping to have spaces ready by the fall or end of this year. This will be a large boost to residences downtown and will further cement this part of downtown as the largest concentration of residences.

Warehouses and Loading Docks beneath the Jackson Avenue Viaduct, Knoxville, June 2012

On the opposite corner of the intersection, below street-level sits the old depot docks. I’d mentioned last January the intention of the owners to offer long-term storage in the spaces which I said at the time seemed like a real waste. I pictured bars or shops and restaurants in those buildings and in some of the spaces under the viaduct and pictured some in that post. Now the word is that this is what may be happening. I’m cautiously optimistic. Until it happens we’ll wait and see, but at least someone is thinking in the right sort of way. Maybe they read this blog. Josh reported that, “Eric Ohlgren and Carl Keaney, the owners of Heuristic Workshop, are planning to buy the property at 205 W. Jackson Avenue.” The potential owners stated they’d like to see, “local or regional manufacturing — possibly food-related — and also for retail. As an example, he mentioned the possibility of a bakery or brew pub, which would manufacture its product and retail it out the front, while wholesaling it out the back.”

Patrick Sullivan's Saloon, Central and Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

I include a picture of Patrick Sullivan’s here because it sits empty and that intersection of Central and Jackson is crucial to the Old City. It’s a great building in need of a great owner. How can you resist those beautiful women in the upstairs windows?

111 E. Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

Just next door at 111 E. Jackson is a completely re-worked and beautiful storefront which used to be an antiques market. I’d taken a picture of it on my walk a few weeks ago planning to mention that it sits vacant and needs tenants. So much was put into the building it seems like a shame for it to be unused. As it turns out, about four weeks ago, Josh Flory reported that 6,000 square feet of the building has now been leased to the Shelton Group Advertising Agency. There is more space available in this great building, but this is very good news, indeed.

Ebi Sign on E. Jackson, Knoxville, June 2012

Ebi Sushi and Saki Bar, Knoxville, June 2012

Just east from that building, across from Barley’s, Ebi Sushi and Saki House opened in the first few months of the year, but I haven’t heard anyone talking about it. Have you eaten there? Is it good? I’ve intended to try it, but Urban Woman doesn’t like sushi, so I haven’t made the extra effort to do it myself.

Marble City Brewing Company's Quarry Tasting Room2, Knoxville, May 2012

Which leads to my second goal of the walk: To join the festivities as Marble City Brewing Company transformed itself into Saw Works Brewing Company and introduced a new pale ale. There were to be festivities and the event was a fund-raiser for Community Shares. Good all the way around, right. I figured I might as well swing on around to E. Depot and take a few photographs of the excitement.

Marble City Brewing Company's Quarry Tasting Room, Knoxville, May 2012

It’s quite a walk, but as I drew close to my destination I noticed the parking lot was empty. I doubted everyone else had taken to walking. As I approached the door I noticed they were closed! My next thought was that I was ten minutes early and that the doors would spring open at the magical moment and a rip-roaring party would ensue. I noticed a flier on the door.

Saw Works Brewing Company Flier in Window, Knoxville, May 2012

Further inspection revealed the party was being held at the Casual Pint, which I profiled recently. No one was coming and I was left to party alone. I walked away wondering why would Marble City or Saw Works, whichever they officially were at the moment would hold their party at a semi-competitor’s business? Casual Pint isn’t a brewery, but they will soon have a storefront in downtown competing with The Quary (or whatever the new name might be as everything else seems to be changing.

Stuck Inside of Knoxville readers need answers. And I plan to get them. Johnathan Bordsodi has offered a tour of the facility, which I will take next week and attempt to learn all their dirty secrets. If there’s anything I’ve learned my readers want the scoop on, it’s beer. I’ve threatened to put the word “beer” in every caption to ensure large numbers of readers. So, watch soon for “BEER.”