Knox Heritage Tour of Armature Building

Three Feathers Building, Southwest Corner of Jackson and Gay, Knoxville

Knox Heritage sometimes gives its members the opportunity to tour buildings which are being renovated and/or re-purposed. Last fall I wrote about their tour of the White Lily building, for example. It’s a great chance to see the “bones” of the buildings before the finished product. It always gives me an appreciation for the people who have the vision to see what could be made of these properties, many of which have been seriously neglected. The tours are great and the organization is great, so if you aren’t a member, you should consider joining, which you may do here.

Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Often the properties on display are being developed by David Dewhirst, who is responsible for the renovations and development of downtown properties such as the Emporium, the Daylight Building and the JFG Building. A profile of Mr. Dewhirst and his projects was published in the News Sentinel yesterday. His company is currently doing the work on the Arnstein Building, the New Union Shops and the Armature Building, which is the building he allowed Knox Heritage members to tour this past Friday night.

Introduction of the tour at Attack Monkey Productions, Gay Street

Units under construction, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012

Units under construction, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012

I believe I understood that what Knox Heritage was calling the “Armature Building” is actually three buildings. The building at the corner of Gay and Jackson is called the Three Feather’s Building and it is moving quickly toward readiness for occupancy. I noticed that washers and dryers had arrived a couple of weeks ago and that usually means the later stages have been reached. It will have ten rental units and the bottom floor will be retail. This building was the home for Volunteers of America, a homeless shelter, and was not included in the tour.

Dewhirst representative gives the details 
A unit on the north side of the development

The next two buildings down Jackson Avenue were referred to by Knox Heritage as the Armature Building but are, in fact, two buildings. The first has ten units on three floors, just as the Three Feathers Building. These units vary from studio apartments to two bedrooms and will likely range in price from around $600 to $1100 per month. To have a studio apartment for $600 in a very cool location in the city is an amazing value.

Interior of the Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Interior of the Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012 

Interior doorway, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012 

The third building in the row is the largest of the three and should yield just over fifty units. It is also the least developed of the three and was in the worst shape when it was purchased. Its manufacturing history is evident by the manlift in its center and the drive-in bay on the front.

Manlift, Armature Building, Knoxville
Drive-in Bay, Armature Building, Knoxville

Another interesting feature is the holes in the roof which appear to be openings for vents during its manufacturing incarnation, but which will likely serve as awesome skylights for the units.

View to the north from the Armature Building

View to the east from the Armature Building

View to the east from the Armature Building

The views are also unique, with the front offering a view of the train tracks and the historic depot buildings and the side offering a view of the back of the western side of the 100 block of Gay Street along with the Emporium, Sterchi and other buildings peeking over the top.

View from the rear of the Armature Building

Row of windows across the rear of the Armature Building

The back view varies depending on which building, with the second building from the corner offering views of what will likely be a nice courtyard and the third building offering views of a small stand of trees and a hillside. The second floor offers a wonderful row of arched windows across the back. There is a rumor afloat of a pool to be added behind the building and for some connection to the underside of the Jackson Street viaduct from the front side of the lower floors.

Rear view from the Armature Building

The schedule calls for the first two buildings to be ready by this fall, with the larger building slated for a December opening, though the representative on site implied this might be an ambitious goal. That will add over seventy units to the residential pool in downtown Knoxville at a time when rental units, particularly, are at a premium and  units for purchase also seem to be emerging from the slow sales period of the recession.

It was a very good evening to reconnect with Knox Heritage members and downtown friends. Also, I find it uplifting and encouraging that progress continues in the city that I love. You might consider joining Knox Heritage if this sounds like the kind of thing you would enjoy. You might consider moving downtown if this sounds like the kind of community you might enjoy connecting to. I know I’m glad I did.