It’s accepted by those who pay careful attention to downtown buildings that the Medical Arts Building on Main Street is one of the most beautiful in the city. With its Gothic touches and ornate flourishes, it is striking to the most casual observer. It’s hard to think of a more architecturally detailed entrance to a parking garage than the one boasted by this building. Tom and Michael Grace, owners and developers for the project invited my father and I to tour the building and see the near-finished product.
Until last year, the 1930s era building, while partially inhabited and certainly not in as bad a condition as many downtown, languished. It had last been painted and generally freshened up in the 1980s when it was managed by Linden Gill for owner B. Ray Thompson. Mr. Gill still owns the other, much smaller, building on the block. Mike Conley purchased the building in 1996 and sold it in 2006 to Tom Grace. The exterior was peeling. Inhabited by only a few remaining tenants, large portions of the inside were empty.
I’ve written about the project a couple of times. Michael Grace generously offered me a tour in mid-February last year. A couple of weeks later I wroe about the the request for CBID assistance that came about the same time money was requested for the JC Penney Building. The Penney Building got about twice as much funding from CBID and a year later appears to be ready to make visible progress. Just one year and one month after the last tenant cleared the building, the Medical Arts Building is within weeks of occupancy.
Units are available for lease starting May 1 on the second through fifth floors. The remaining floors, six through ten, will become available June 1. In total, the project includes forty-nine residential units which incorporate seventy-seven bedrooms. Each floor, beginning with the third includes three two-bedroom, two baths and two one-bedroom and one-bath units.
The second floor is a matter unto itself. It includes nine units due to the shape of the building. You might think you’d rather live higher for the spectacular views the upper floors provide. While that’s true, the second floor includes amenities the others can’t deliver including parking just outside the main corridor to the apartments, meaning a dedicated, sheltered spot sits feet from the hallway. Some of the units also feature exterior roof-top patios. This floor also includes the only three-bedroom unit.
The apartments are not designed for students in that there is no pool and leases are for full, not academic years. Additionally, the decision has been made not to include undergraduates as possible tenants. This is a significant contrast to other developments currently being discussed. The target clientele is graduate students, visiting professors to UT, visiting academics working with Oak Ridge and young professionals. People from each demographic have expressed interest and around a dozen of the forty-nine units have been leased and about that many more people have paid an application fee to pursue a lease.
The units range in price from about $900 to $1500 per month and each include a dedicated parking space. An additional space is available for lease at $75 per month. Additional storage space is also available. An in-building recycling program will be implemented and there will be storage for bicycles. The building is pet-friendly with restrictions. Furnishings may be rented from the Cort Company if a resident so wishes.
Full of amenities, the units have been finished very nicely. Granite counter-tops and porcelain-tiled flooring are included in each unit, as are washers and dryers. Nine-foot ceilings enhance each unit and fiber-optic lines have been run throughout the building to provide probably the best in-building band width available downtown. The kitchens also feature under-cabinet lighting and the concrete construction should provide excellent sound insulation.
Of course, I love the opulent lobby, which is now more vibrant than before with its gold-painted molding, brass elevators and marble walls. The marble walls are found throughout the hallways of the building as are the gorgeous vaulted ceilings. The doors to the unit are a beautiful walnut.
There are also three commercial spaces available on street level. Some of you might remember that one of these, on the corner of Main and Locust, most recently housed Pop Culture, which moved to a location on Walnut and recently moved to Sutherland Avenue. The additional space on the Locust Street side most recently housed Sam’s Diner, which closed over a year ago. The space fronting Main Street hasn’t been occupied in my memory. Reportedly interest has been expressed in these spaces, but nothing has been finalized.
If you are interested in renting a space downtown, and I know many people are, this is an excellent opportunity if it is in your price-range. It offers many amenities you won’t find anywhere else and the location is ideal in many respects. It sounds as if nearly half of them are gone or near-gone and marketing only started last week, so this is one opportunity you really might want to pursue quickly.