The numbers were laid out for the guests at the East Tennessee Community Design Center Celebration: In existence 44 years, they service 16 counties. Over 100,000 children are served by the organizations receiving their services and their economic impact on the region has been near 17 million dollars in the last ten years. They’ve worked on 196 community park and greenway projects since 1970 and 933 total projects during that time. Since 2006 they’ve assisted in 89 facade improvements increasing property values by nearly 4 and a half million dollars.
So what exactly do they do? According to their site, they are, “a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make East Tennessee a better place to live and work by bringing professional design and planning assistance to community groups and non-profit organizations. The Community Design Center offers its services through the pro bono contributions of area architects, landscape architects, planners and other professionals.” They are supported through grants and donations and are very much a downtown Knoxville organization, with production offices at 500 S. Gay Street and administrative offices at 1300 N. Broadway.
So, once a year they throw a party complete with great food from area restaurants, good music – provided each of the past two years by Y’uns – and a silent auction. This year’s event was held inside The Standard on Jackson Avenue, which is fast becoming one of my favorite venues for all sorts of functions. When the sound is right, it is a great place to hear music.
The annual celebration also includes a tour of various homes and/or buildings each year and this year’s tour focused on Jackson Avenue buildings. I didn’t make it through all of them as I tend to enjoy conversations along the way and move a bit more slowly than I’d planned. But then, that’s the best thing about downtown living – having wonderful friends and acquaintances, so I’ll accept that trade-off.
After the reception at the Standard, Urban woman and I walked to the Southeastern Glass Building at the corner of Jackson and Broadway. Built in 1927, it sat empty from 1972 to 2010 and could easily have been destroyed. It has to be one of the coolest buildings in the city and I admire that it was re-developed at a time it sat on the edge of downtown’s resurgence. The condos are each unique and, as you can see from the one pictured here, feature enough interesting angles and light to keep a photographer happy for quite awhile. The building also features office space on the bottom floor. They currently have two, one bedroom units for sale. Additionally, as of August 1, a two bedroom unit will be available to rent for $1450 per month.
We also stopped by the West Jackson Workshops, home to Sanders Pace Architecture. This building sat vacant and roofless for thirty years before its renovation, which was completed in 2010. Again, this is a building which few would have imagined as a viable structure. Instead of the demolition many would have suggested it had coming, it was redesigned and became a beautiful, award winning space. On this night it also included a showing of photographs by Meredith Cole McGill whose photography is among the most attractive I’ve seen recently. Urban Woman and I both became fans. You’ll find her at Meredith Cole Photography.
I’ve brought you photographs from the Armature Building before, but these really illustrate the range of apartments available there. The first pictured here, unit 303, has a finely finished, elegant appearance and a relatively small, cozy space. It’s located on the front side and overlooks the train yards.
The second is quite different and I was happy to be able to tour 311 because I’d walked through it prior to occupancy when it wasn’t quite finished. Obvious then that it would be a fun space, the finished reality is even better. With views of the courtyard on the back side of the building, this unit features a large open area with kitchen, dining and living space, two bedrooms and the best part hidden away in a loft overlooking the primary space.
I know it becomes repetitious, but it is important for everyone interested in downtown to understand that these buildings fell into serious disrepair and by most people’s standards would be called abandoned eyesores. There’s no question in my mind that the casual observer of the Armature building, when it was an empty concrete husk of its original 1900 era self, would have suggested it be demolished. Now it is home for many people.
I’ve been into Fire Street Lofts many times, but I’m glad I made one more stop. I visited the home of downtown favorite, Kim Henry, in unit 304 and found a beautiful space. As a bonus Kim showed me a great postcard collection and I really enjoyed hanging out there for a few minutes. The units on that side of Fire Street lofts also have a great view of the train station and depot.
I did take a look at Jackson Terminal, but I’m going to save that for another day. It’s a good story on its own. My final stop was the Jackson Central Building at 111 E. Jackson. This 1922 building originally built by and housing the Iddins Machinery Company, produced farm equipment on the site until the 1940s when Camel manufacturing began a forty-year run producing tents. After about twenty-five years housing the Jackson Avenue Antique Market, it was renovated in great style in 2009 and is now home to The Shelton Group, Rocky Top Marketing and Dollar and Ewers Architecture. Some space is still available.
So, special thanks to the East Tennessee Community Design Center for another great event. These sorts of tours are very encouraging in the face of so many threatened or demolished buildings. It’s heartening to see what a little vision and a lot of architectural and engineering skill can produce. It’s a good thing for all of us to remember when we casually suggest that an old building should simply be destroyed to make way for the next big thing.
As a reminder, if you are interested in exploring currently available downtown properties, there is a searchable database lined at the top of this page. Current information about sales downtown as well as listings for all available properties in downtown, Fort Sanders and Fourth and Gill may be found there along with links to Market Square Realtor if you’d like help finding a condo in the city.
Also, please let me know if you are able to secure pictures from the Brewfest, Kuumba Festival, or Pridefest (actual event or parade). I’d love to feature them, but I will not be able to attend the events. Have a great weekend, everybody.