So many things are happening downtown just on the weekends, that it’s hard to keep up. The City People Home Tour is one of the most important, in my opinion. It gives a wide audience the opportunity to sample some examples of downtown living and to experience the wide variety of living situations in the city. From small lofts to massive condominiums, there’s something for nearly everyone, if you can catch it on the market.
And that’s a current problem. You can see all listings at the “Downtown Properties” tab and my friend Melinda Grimac, the realtor who operates that page will be happy to help you find what you are looking for. The problem is that only 57 are listed and of those, the majority are in Fort Sanders or otherwise not specifically downtown. Years of building mostly apartments has not satisfied demand for rental units downtown, and it has left a shortage of purchasable properties. Interested in living downtown? Best have somebody watching for the first sign something might be hitting the market and grab it before it is listed.
That said, we’ll look at a range of properties so you can come closer to determining the kind of home you might picture yourself in at some future point. I’ll take them in the order I visited them. Two of the homes on the tour didn’t allow photographs, but one allowed me special permission before the tour began. To them and all the home owners, a special thank you. So, of the thirteen on the tour, I’ll give you a glimpse of twelve. Some homes were more crowded, some are larger. For these, as well as other variables, I’ll have wildly differing numbers of photographs for each home.
The extremely well organized tour kicked off Friday and included a second day for the first time. This was a great move that really helped. Buskers were hired to play along the way, Trolleys were employed, three check-in spots were allowed. An army of volunteers made it all possible. Even the weather cooperated to make the city shine.
The first home I visited was in Gallery Lofts. The building dates to 1901 and replaced a building lost in the great fire of 1897. Located above Mast General Store, the building features not only that retail outlet just downstairs, but also the Promenade parking garage behind the building which is where the owner of this unit parks his cars. He’s lived downtown for three years, having moved from North Knoxville. Like many of the other owners on the tour, he noted the feeling of community and the activities as attractions to downtown.
As you can see from the photographs, the home is magnificent. A small room in the front contains a museum’s worth of amazing antiques, included several pre-Revolutionary War pieces in impeccable shape. Art from early Knoxville artists mingles with Chinese porcelain well over one hundred years old. The open kitchen/living space enjoys excellent light from east-facing windows and also features a walk-out balcony.
Two beautiful bedrooms, and bathrooms, a weight room, an upstairs sitting room and more highlights than it’s possible to mention are found through-out the house. The large balcony off the top level with a cabana and plush seating may be the highlight. Large enough for parties, this is the space that had visitors marveling.
My next stop was Kendrick Place for a tour of two units. Kendrick Place was built as Temple Court (it is next to the Masonic Temple) in 1916 and enjoyed a decade of very prosperous inhabitants, but gradually slipped into disrepair and neglect with units being sub-divided for use as rental spaces. In 1981 Christopher Kendrick hired fourteen different architects to renovate each of the fourteen homes, thus producing a wide range of home-styles inside a uniform exterior. The row homes are the only turn-of-the-century homes in that style left downtown, though it was not uncommon for the time.
612 Union Avenue, the first unit pictured here was renovated most recently in 2010 and is the one unit which is smaller than the other thirteen which are all uniform in square footage. It sits at the end beside Chesapeake’s restaurant and is thought to have originally functioned as a boiler room of sorts to heat the other thirteen units. The owner has lived there for twenty-four years and likes the small-town feel and the fact that everyone knows everyone else. She does not own a car.
The second Kendrick Place unit on the tour is just three doors down from that one at 606 Union Avenue features a very modern decor with an open ceiling in the middle of the second floor (all units in Kendrick Place feature three floors). The owners have lived in the residence for a year and have over-seen renovations during that time. They previously lived in the Emporium for three years and like the fact that they can walk most places and have simplified their life. They park outside their door and in the Locust Street Garage.
The next home I toured was in Sandstone Court, which obviously got its name from its unusual exterior made of Tennessee sandstone. It’s the only building like it downtown and the interior, which holds two condos on the top floor is spectacular, holding all sorts of unexpected features. The building was likely built in 1933 and generally housed banks for most of its history, though it was once home to “Computerland,” which sounds like a business we could use in today’s downtown.
Entry to the unit sits at the top of an internal stairway which leads to both units. The one on the tour faces Clinch Avenue and offers a wide view of downtown. The owners park in the Locust Street Garage and also mention connection with neighbors as an attraction for them. They moved from Sequoyah Hills eight-and-a-half years ago when their youngest son was still in high school and the entire family loved being in an urban environment. They also enjoy walking and biking and being outside, in general, which is reflected in their incredible deck. One bedroom even opens up onto the deck which also features a built-in grill and seating for numerous friends.
The interior features an office space and a very open floor plan with high ceilings. Built in book shelves, large windows and impressive lighting highlight the main room. Just behind the kitchen is the master bedroom which is separated from the master bath by a wall, but no doors and is accessible from either side of the bed. The bathroom, of course, is as beautiful as the other spaces.
The Arnstein Building, constructed in 1905 as Knoxville’s tallest building at seven stories, was built by Max Arnstein, a German-Jewish immigrant. Designed by a New York firm responsible for iconic Victorian-era buildings in Manhattan, it housed Arnstein’s business before going through a number of uses and owners. Most recently, it sat vacant.
Redeveloped in 2013, it now serves as home to national retailer Urban Outfitters, architectural firm Barber McMurray and twenty apartments of varying sizes. It’s a perfect urban blend of retail, office and residential. The home on the tour is a small, efficient three rooms, with a bed, bath and open-plan kitchen and living space. While small, the home offers original hard-wood floors, arched doorways and an absolutely great tree-top level view of Krutch Park and the southern end of Market Square.
The owner said he enjoys urban living because it is the “creative and cultural heart of the city.” He lived in Washington, D.C. before moving to Knoxville and says he’s always loved the building, having been familiar with it before moving to town.
Tomorrow I’ll have additional properties from the tour. In the meantime, check the Inside of Knoxville FB page for these and additional photographs of the homes.