The Phoenix at 418 S. Gay Street rises above one of the most unlikely retail establishments downtown: A combination dry cleaners and coffee shop. The Downtown Grind and Prestige Cleaners. Both are excellent businesses with friends waiting to take your soiled clothing or make you a great cup of coffee. Somehow, it works. There is additional retail space available on the first floor, as well.
The remainder of the six story building includes three floors of office space and the the top two floors are condos. Many were leased initially, but most are privately owned at this time. Basically, some units face east with views across James White Parkway, while the other half face west, overlooking Gay Street and the majority of downtown Knoxville.
Originally built over the ruins of the great Knoxville Fire of 1897, hence the name, the 1899 building has seen many uses. Notably in modern times, Fowler’s furniture had a store and headquarters there until 1988. Nearly lost in a 1999 fire, InSite Properties received an Excellence Award from the MPC in 2005 for their great work restoring the building.
It was about then, when the residential units were new that the building was first featured on a City People Tour. It’s one of the first times I began taking notice of properties downtown. Our first impression settled somewhere between “cool” and “not for us.” Touring it seven years later I’d go heavier on the “cool” and a bit lighter on the other part. I think we know a little more about living in the city and realize some of the very appealing things about the building and the condos we didn’t realize before.
Space utilization is impressive, with pocket doors and retractable walls. The wide banks of windows not only let in a significant amount of light, they make the space feel larger. Additionally, a bit farther removed from our new-home perspective, we tend to enjoy little idiosyncrasies of unique living spaces.
The unit on the tour sits on the eastern side of the building. The good news there is that residents are removed more from the business of Gay Street and the view goes farther into the distance since it isn’t obstructed by buildings as much. Privacy is likely better since no one really has a good angle to look into your windows and it may be a bit more quiet on that side. The view isn’t the best, however, with the James White Parkway and subsidized housing on the other side your primary sights.
The other unit picture in this post sits on the western side and is currently on the market for around $270,000 from what I remember – and I could have that wrong. It seemed to have been upgraded a bit, though the basic design is the reverse of the other unit. It seemed a bit more traditional and the views are of the city, though the downside would likely be more noise (or as we call it in my family – more “sounds of the city.” Even located five or six floors above ground-level, I suspect more light from the city comes in at night, though the bedrooms are not located next to the large windows.
The Phoenix certainly offers a great location, centrally located to the best that downtown has to offer. If a true urban loft feel is what you are after this is a great place to consider. It also doesn’t hurt that great coffee is always brewing in your lobby.