It’s a point of continual discussion among downtown residents and would-be residents: There are not enough homes on the market in the downtown area. Given any particular budget – high or low – and, certainly, any set of parameters for desired amenities, buyers are often left with one, two or no options. I’ve known buyers dismayed that no “affordable” options are available and I’ve heard realtors talk of people who stand ready to spend a half million to a million dollars, but are unable to find satisfactory homes.
It’s a problem that can be traced, at least partially, to the housing crash of 2008. Lending became more restrictive and developers shifted to construction of apartments to respond to increased demand in that arena. That demand hasn’t yet been sated downtown, though we’ll test it’s depth when the 283 units in Marble Alley Lofts are completed later this year.
Recently, however, a sprinkling of small condominium projects have surfaced. It started with The Mews, Jeffrey Nash’s ten-unit development on Magnolia Avenue near Public House. It’s continuing with a seven-unit development located at the highest point in downtown Knoxville. The Vine Avenue Rowhouses designed by Sanders Pace Architect and developed by Hatcher Hill Properties, will sit alongside Ryan’s Row. The new project, however, is not connected to Ryan’s Row and will have its own HOA.
Featuring spectacular views in every direction – from the Smoky Mountains to House Mountain and Sharp’s Ridge, as well as excellent views of the city skyline, the street sits just blocks from Market Square, but offers a quieter spot overlooking it all. The first phase of Ryan’s Row was completed in the mid 1980s by Khristopher Kendrick after the original developer failed to complete the entire project. Left to its west on the hillside was a spot designated for rowhouses by deed restriction since 1981. First used as a parking lot, it eventually simply became an abandoned, overgrown and undeveloped lot.
I spoke to Jennifer Holder who has lived in Ryan’s Row for, “a little more than 22 years . . .” and she reminisced how little was going on downtown in 1993, but said, she “loves living at Ryan’s Row,” noting that the “neighborhood is truly a neighborhood; neighbors . . . watch out for each other.” She describes it as “a quiet neighborhood generally, but we . . . still have all of what Downtown has to offer at our fingertips.” Of the new development, she said, “I am so excited to see the property developed and to be developed by such a proven developer as Hatcher Hill. The new development will be a wonderful addition . . .”
Plans have been submitted to the Downtown Design Review Board and include seven additional units. John Sanders, AIA, lead architect, and Michael Davis, project designer and manager, met with me to give me the details, which are pretty amazing:
“Each of the units is approximately 2,900 SF with a two car garage. They will be 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath units. Five (5) of the units feature brownstone style stoops leading up to the main entry. The remaining two (2) units on the west side of the building adapt to the sloping topography by shifting the main entry to the ground floor level. The primary material of the building is brick. Other exterior materials include board form concrete foundation walls, black metal accent panels, and warm wood accents with large aluminum clad operable residential wood windows.”
It’s pretty much unlike anything else downtown. With nearly 3,000 square feet, it’s larger than most. With two-car garages, other than the neighboring Ryan’s Row, it unprecedented. And it doesn’t stop there. Some downtown homes have a common courtyard or a deck. These units each have a private planted courtyard on the south side, a private deck with views to the north and a rooftop terrace with 360 degree views with the option for a rooftop green space. Oh, and there’s the option of a personal residential lift (elevator) within each unit.
The exterior of the development will be primarily brick, though not the red brick with which we’ve become so familiar downtown, but rather “complimenting the neighboring browns and reds with the different and unique black manganese ironspot brick.” It actually appears to my eye as varying shades of gray. The samples are beautiful, and the finished product should be a striking addition to the city. It will also be a prominent one, sitting atop that hillside. As John Sanders noted, “You can’t change place.”
You might expect homes such as these to command a premium price, and you’d be correct. I spoke to developer Tim Hill who described the properties as, “Upper bracket, luxury condominiums with a number of amenities.” He said final pricing is still in question as they are currently working through construction pricing. He also noted that final cost on each unit could vary depending on amenities chosen – such as a personal elevator. He did indicate the range will be, “north of $800,000, but less than $1,000,000.”
The next step for the project is a Wednesday appointment with the Downtown Design Review Board whose staff recommendation is for approval. Permitting will follow that approval when it comes and construction is planned to begin this fall, with sales and occupancy to come in late spring/early summer of 2016. It is interesting to note that the developer is incurring all the costs associated with development and construction and no public money is involved.
So many things about the project fell both modern and retro. While the construction looks very modern, yet reflects the brownstone style which, I’ve read was the most common housing to be found downtown a hundred years ago. Kendrick Place is the last of the historic brownstones to be found from that era in the immediate downtown area, though several exist just to the north. This specific location previously included homes, which were removed long ago. Now the hillside will return to residences. It’s a kind of return to the past I think we all appreciate.