Last March I took a stroll down Depot Avenue with a large group from Knox Heritage through some of the development projects planned by Dewhirst Properties. David Dewhirst led the way and talked quite extensively about plans and possibilities. It was an unusual level of openness for a developer, many of whom are reluctant to talk about projects almost until the projects are completed.
While that is understandable, there is such an excitement and interest about downtown development, in particular, that it’s hard to contain the interest until projects are complete. We all want to know what’s happening, but just as keenly: What’s going to happen next? Also, I’ve been interested in Depot for a long time. I first wrote about it in November of 2011. I’m not sure I really believed it could happen this fast.
Still, I wanted to wait a bit to allow some of the details to become more firm and I wanted to follow-up with David to make sure I had the details accurate enough for publication. Recently, David and Mark Heinz agreed to meet with me and talk about the projects as they currently stand. Clearly, some of the plans and projected completion dates are still in flux, so remember that as you read. For the most part, however, the projects are settling into place.
It all starts on the north-western corner of the intersection of Depot Avenue and Central Street. The existing building, which sits diagonally across from White Lily Flats, long used as storage by Dewhirst Properties, is now actively being renovated and reconfigured. Built in 1894 and referred to as the “1894 Building,” it is the beginning of a complete transformation of a two block section of Depot Street. The block has been dubbed the “1894 Block.”
Once an old saloon, the building is now about 40% through its conversion to retail and residential space. A small building by comparison, it will include twelve residential lofts and four retail spaces. The residences will (hopefully) be available this fall. The building backs up to the ten recently completed residences at The Mews which are now listed and available for purchase (you can also see them on the MLS listing at the “Downtown Properties” link above.
Proceeding west from that corner, trees line the southern side of Depot Avenue and just beyond them is the Southern Station and The Depot, containing Blue Slip Winery and two separate event venues. The Dewhirst development projects will continue along the northern side of the street.
Adjacent to the 1894 Building is an empty lot which has been home to piles of architectural refuse for sometime. It has now been cleaned of that debris and is slated to become Dewhirst Properties first ground-up project, replacing the paved surface there now. A gap will remain between the new building and the building discussed above, allowing for a private courtyard for the residents, much like the one behind it in Jeffrey Nash’s project.
This building, bordering Ogden Street will be mirrored by another, identical building across the street on the northwest corner of Depot and Ogden, occupying the space generated when the fire destroyed a portion of the Industrial Belting and Supply Building in March of 2013. Each of the three-story mirror buildings will include four retail spaces on street level facing both Depot and Ogden and each will include twenty-two residential units on the second and third stories.
Moving further west along Depot, an 8,000 square foot outdoor area will be included in the plans for the next building down (the remaining half of the Industrial Belting and Supply Building), which will be an event space for the near future and will actually require very little build-out for the purpose. The interior space is approximately ten thousand square feet which, with the outdoor space available, will be able to accommodate very large events – or either portion can be used for smaller events.
The outdoor space will likely have a structure at it’s northern end or at the southern side bordering Depot Street – it’s one of the few details left to work out. Otherwise plans are pretty much set. It may seem that we are getting event-space heavy with the Standard, Southern Station and The Southern Depot and will All Occasions opening a space in the Jackson Terminal Building but, in fact, more may be needed.
David told me that the Standard is scheduled for an event each weekend for the next year. Additionally, at 4,000 square feet (the large room), it doesn’t have the space to serve every need, meaning the larger space will attract some events unable to use that space. The new space is already booked for an event next spring. Still, Mark indicated a future time may present a different use for the building.
Finally, the corner of Depot and Williams will get a unique treatment: The front section of the building will have the facade peeled back to expose the support beams and form an outdoor seating area for a restaurant and brewery bordering Williams Street on the north end of the building. A common kitchen will be shared by the restaurant and the event space and the restaurant/brewery could be included for clients renting the event space, making the potential of inviting everyone who lives downtown a possibility for your event. Maybe not literally, but close.
The time=table on all the construction is still fluid but, as I said earlier, but work is well underway on the corner building. Ground should break any time, now, on the next two. The event space has to be open next spring because of the booking I mentioned earlier. With luck, Mark said the other buildings, the brewery and the restaurant will be ready late summer of 2016.
And there will be more news to come. While it isn’t currently in the works, a third identical building to the two being built on either side of Ogden will likely be built on the southwestern corner of Central and Depot, helping complete that intersection. Plans are also being discussed (by other developers) for Regas Square and the Regas Building itself is well on its way toward renovation and re-purposing. I’ve mentioned Jeffrey Nash’s plans to build apartment units beside what is currently Marie’s Tavern.
Just looking at the plans laid out here, that’s an additional fifty-six residences and a potential for thirteen new retail businesses. That’s transformative for a two block stretch of one street. It’s easy to imagine this being one of the most active sections of the downtown area within a few short years. As I wrote in 2011, I’d love to see development stretch all the way through to Broadway and that seems more a possibility now than ever. These are exciting times to live in Knoxville.