Marble Alley has been a topic of discussion in concept since I started this website. It was a point of some contention in the design phase and it underwent changes throughout the last five years. The ground-breaking took place over a year ago. For some time after that the efforts on the site seemed to produce not much more than shifting piles of dirt. Then it started rising and taking shape and has, even before it opens become a presence downtown.
As Buzz Goss gave me a tour last week he mentioned the he has been surprised at just how visible and how much of a presence the structure has become. I’d noticed it already and it surprised me, as well. Sometimes the geographic relationships of downtown aren’t obvious until you see them from a new perspective or with a new point of reference. Marble Alley is providing a new point of reference. For example, I’d never realized we’d be able to see it from the Old City, but it’s visible from many spots along Jackson and out Central.
The most notable point from which it is visible also highlights one of the contributions the project will make. Looking from Gay Street through the gap created by the fire and subsequent demolition in 1974 of the Terminal Building, the view before Marble alley was an ocean of asphalt, backed by the James White Parkway. Downtown seemed to “end” just behind Gay Street. Now visitors to the city can look through the gap and see there is more “there”there. I think it’s an important contribution to the texture of the city.
The relationship between the Old City and downtown proper has been a point of the construction from the beginning. The two seem quite separated to many people, largely because of the fairly steep hill between the two. The new residential development makes clear that the two are really quite connected – and more so now than before. It’s about a block to either the Old City or to Gay Street from the building, a fact that will no doubt attract many residents.
The building will feature amenities either not currently found downtown or at least very usual for downtown. It starts with an internal parking garage (370 spaces) offering, in many cases, very direct access to the units. A pool will be included in the internal courtyard as will an outdoor grilling area available to residents. An inviting lobby at the main entrance – which is on State Street – will open into a workout room and will overlook a game room for residents.
Each of the units will have granite counter-tops and hardwood floors. Most will have a balcony and the choices of views range from a view toward Gay Street, toward the mountains, the Old City or, for those who prefer, a view of the courtyard. I noted a number of downtown iconic structures visible from one perspective or another including the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, First Presbyterian Church, Patrick Sullivan’s, Knoxville High School, the Sterchi Building and more.
Prices vary widely depending on location of the apartment (generally the higher, the more expensive) and the size. The two-hundred-forty-eight units will include both one and two bedrooms and the square footage will range from 500 square feet up to nearly 1200 square feet. Prices range from right around $1000 dollars a month to $1759 per month.
Pre-leasing has begun and close to 15% of the units are taken even without a completed unit to show potential residents. I’ve felt, as have others I’ve spoken to, that this development will be a test of the downtown market. Right now, leasing a downtown apartment is a highly competitive affair, with very few units available. The addition of 248 units to the market at one time is something we’ve not seen, perhaps in downtown’s entire history. If and how quickly they fill will, no doubt, have an impact on development going forward. Early indications are that filling them will not be difficult.
First residents will likely move in three months from now, with move-in dates phased in afterwards. For example, the move-in date for someone leasing today would be December and the date will continue rolling based on progress in the development. All amenities, however, will be available in November. Interestingly, that means the pool, which will be maintained (though not heated) year-round.
The other impact I’m curious to experience is that of the increase in residents downtown. It’s hard to say what percentage increase this will represent, because the current population estimates are surprisingly wide-ranging. Just for the sake of the discussion, one source (city-data.com) estimated the population of the 37902 zip code to be 1,810 in 2013. I would say we’ve easily reached 2,000, if you consider what’s been added in the last couple of years.
Assuming that’s accurate and, assuming that about 100 of the new apartments include two residents, meaning a total of around 350 additional residents, that would produce a 17.5% increase in residential population over a two month or so period. This doesn’t even take into account the 20 units coming soon to the JC Penney Bldg or the 70 coming soon to the former John H. Daniel Bldg. That percentage of increase, I believe, will result in a noticeable difference on the sidewalks, in the restaurants and in the retail shops. It will likely also attract more retail options to the city.
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of downtown living at Marble Alley Lofts, you can contact them via the webpage, or you may call Tracey at 865-230-1860.