As I approached the 100 Block of Gay Street for today’s ceremonial re-opening, I was reminded how special this spot is in downtown Knoxville.
I think the western side of this block contains one of the prettiest line-ups of facades in the city. Shorter in stature, longer in character, perhaps, they have their own style. They project a small-town America feel in the middle of the city. This historic area is where the Jewish community met the African-American community located just down the hill and it retains a distinctive flavor, even though these communities no longer reside there. The last small remnant was Harold’s Kosher Deli which closed in 2005, prior to Harold ‘s death in 2008.
Even on this happy day, there are questions: The larger trees will be planted in the fall. Work is continuing on several store-fronts and the use of the corner site on the northwestern side is in the hands of Jeffrey Nash, owner of the Crown and Goose, who purchased the building from the Volunteers of America. Of concern is the boarding up of Havana Nights (above picture). I hope that is temporary and that they return, as they are a unique restaurant in an area accumulating a significant number of eateries. There was some question last winter regarding their future, but hopefully they are on a hiatus. The street itself is still a couple of weeks away due to some cracks, but the beautiful block is open. And a beautiful block, it is.
A promise amid the opening were the signs (in window above) stating that Nouveau Classics will open on the southeast corner in September with an inventory of “contemporary furnishings.”
Mayor Haslam worked his way through the crowd, shaking hands, giving statements and posing for photographs before the ceremony began.
In his introductory remarks, Bill Lyons pointed out that this is the only place downtown that can be referred to by number and everyone knows the street (I may be paraphrasing, Bill), and he had a point. Probably some of that has come about because of the construction itself, but that may be a plus in itself going forward.
After remarks by Mayor Haslam thanking everyone who suffered and/or worked to make this happen for the last year and a half, the ribbon was cut and the 100 block of Gay Street was proclaimed “re-opened” for business.
There is clearly more work to be done, but the street is beautiful and the sidewalks grand. It was a feel-good day with congratulations all around. I thought there might be a greater attendance, but for most of us, work days continue no matter what ribbon is being cut. I’m sure there are many more people celebrating tonight than were in attendance today.
All that remained was interviews with the media as another chapter in his mayoral tenure came to a close. Perhaps he’ll complete his term, but the feeling here today was that we are seeing the final acts of Knoxville’s mayor and a prelude of the tenure of our new governor.