Market Square Still Evolving: Is it getting better?

Preservation Pub: New Solar Panels and Roof Garden

It seemed the news from Market Square had run its course for the month, from the footnote to the splashy: Bernadette West got approval for some of the solar panels she wants on top of Preservation Pub and Tupelo Honey is coming to 1 Market Square.

Just when it seemed the month would end without more changes, the latest change was announced just before the weekend: Scott and Bernadette West have purchased 32 Market Square. What does this mean? Well, if you believe the comments on Knoxnews, it means either the War on Drugs has been lost or the War on Drugs was a dumb idea in the first place. I’d just as soon look at it through another lens.

There are two businesses on the first floor of that building. I’m not sure if there is currently anything above them. One is Swagger, which is a high-end athletic shoe store originally located in Bearden and on Market Square for just under two years. It wasn’t my kind of place, but I enjoyed talking to Ricky. I’m told he hasn’t worked there since before Christmas. The other business is Harb’s Tailoring. I’m not sure how long this business has been on the square, but it has the look of something from an earlier era.

32 Market Square: Harb’s Taylor and Swagger

The plan is for the West’s to replace both businesses with an entertainment venue called Scruffy City Hall. The idea appears to be that some artists want to charge more to play than Preservation Pub thinks their patrons would like to pay. This will provide another option for bands who might like to charge $10 for a ticket. I suspect the Wests will do a first class job of this re-purposing of 32 Market Square and you’ll probably find me in the new establishment enjoying some great entertainment.

So, it’s all good, right? Well, not completely in my mind. It has not been a week since, walking through Market Square, I thought, “People seem to think we only have restaurants and bars in Market Square, but we have so much more.” And it’s true. Even though the most recent announcement prior to that had been of the advent of Tupelo Honey, there is so much more. We have gift shops in the form of Earth to Old City and Bliss. We have home goods at Bliss Home and clothing and accessories at Fizz and Crass Couture. We have Knox Ivi and an outpost of WBIR along with the Chamber of Commerce and a beauty salon.

But until now we also had a shoe store and a tailor. Two pretty old-school merchants to mix and match with all the new shiny concept stores. Who cares, right? Well, I’ve got a little concern. We have many, many bars and restaurants downtown and not so many shoe shops and tailors. Are we a place to dine and party or are we a place to live where the residents can also dine and party?

This is nothing against the Wests and nothing against the new business. I have no problem with either and fall into the camp of gratitude for what they have accomplished downtown. I’d like to think they might understand my thoughts regarding building a city. Maybe both these businesses were heading out in any case. I’m not sure what kind of volume Swagger did and Harb’s did seem anachronistic in the face of everything happening downtown.

Ugly Storefront at 30 Market Square: Architects with no civic pride? Really?

So, what now? What needs to happen next for Market Square? We are getting Scruffy City Hall and we are getting Tupelo Honey at 1 Market Square. We have two great openings and one ugly, ugly storefront at 30 Market Square. Of course I’d like to see the owners at 30 Market Square finally become good citizens and make their storefront less of an embarrassment. Did you know they are architects? Can you say, “irony?”

2 Market Square: Imagine a Parisian-styled Pharmacy

I’d like to see something different at each of the corners – 2 Market Square and 36 Market Square. It would be great if it could be something that would draw people downtown. Sure, we all want more of that. But I’d love it if either or both could be solid retail establishments that people living in a city actually need. 36 could make a great clothing or small department store.

As for 2 Market Square, a rumor circulated recently on Facebook that it would be a mattress store. That didn’t sound so good to the people who discussed it there. Not that people downtown don’t like mattresses, but such an exquisite address seems to beg for more. The “For Lease” sign still hanging in the window suggests the mattress idea hasn’t been put to bed.

Pharmacy in Paris from  

Here’s another idea: What about a pharmacy? In Paris there is a very small (by our standards) pharmacy every few feet – which has to do with how much better the French health care system is – and they are very cool. You can’t necessarily find a two liter drink, a hair dryer, a photo developer and a full selection of greeting cards, but you’ll find the most essential over-the-counter medications and most of the common prescription medications all available from a very friendly and helpful pharmacist. That’s what I found and I’ve learned it is not at all uncommon.

If we can’t have a pharmacy and a clothing or department store, here’s hoping for something at least a bit different that adds to the life of the city. And here’s to the West’s new venture. I wish it nothing but success and I’ll probably see you there. It’s just that at some point, somewhere down the road, we will become a real, vibrant place to actually live a life or we will become an Epcot-like entertainment venue. I’m hoping for a genuine place to go about a daily life. What do you think?