I’m often asked about construction projects. Recently someone on Facebook asked for a diagram showing all the cranes on the skyline as seen from south Knoxville along with tags telling the nature of each. About the same time I got that request, the city of Knoxville offered a bus tour for the media which they captioned, “Knoxville Under Construction.” The focus is on public investment in construction, though some private construction was mentioned.
I, along with representatives from other media sources in the city, took advantage of the offer. Below you’ll find information from that day. I’ll highlight a few things I found interesting and which came as a surprise to me. I’ll skim over topics we’ve already discussed here in some depth.
We started with the construction on the 700 block, which I recently detailed. Estimated completion for the streetscape project is spring of 2016 with an estimated investment of $1.2 million. Construction at the old KUB building was noted, though that is private investment. The JC Penney building, nearing completion is estimated to represent a $7.3 million private investment. Marble Alley, also visible from Gay Street is receiving support from the city in the form of street improvements costing around $1.1 million.
We rode out Central through the Old City and developments were mentioned there, some of which I’ve discussed in detail, The Daniel lofts and retail, Patrick Sullivan’s which should be resuscitated soon, the Dewhirst developments on Depot, the Jeffrey Nash development at The Mews, Knoxville High School which is being renovated by Rick Dover, Crafty Bastard Brewery at Emory Place and the Sanitary Laundry Building where remediation is taking place. It’s quite a hotbed of development.
A major streetscape project is planned for Central north through Happy Holler. It will happen in phases, starting with sidewalk improvements next spring. Fall of 2016 and flowing into 2017 stormwater and water lines will be replaced. Finally, in the fall of 2017, the street will be repaved. Total cost for the project will be about $2.5 million, with an 80% federal and 20% local split.
We looked at Magnolia Avenue, site of the proposed Magnolia Corridor project. The plan is to have final designs by the end of this year and the hope is to have construction begin next year. Apparently this project isn’t funded, yet, though it is anticipated that it will be. This came as a surprise to me. I thought the project was funded and ready to proceed. The plan is to make a four-block “model block” corridor along the stretch in front of Pellissippi State. The estimated cost is around $4.2 million. While in the area, we also stopped at the Overcoming Believers Church, a recipient of a facade grant and a pretty amazing makeover of a warehouse.
Some of the most interesting – and somewhat surprising (to me, at least) – news came when discussing the Jackson Avenue streetscape project, Jackson Avenue ramps and the McClung Warehouse site. The streetscape work will begin this fall and should be completed next spring. The city and KUB combined plan to spend around $1.3 million on that project.
The ramp will essentially have both sides, east and west of Gay Street, replaced at the same time, with the idea that doing them one a time would result in a disruption for nearly two years. The start of the project is scheduled for one year from this fall, with a completion date somewhere around a year later. That is a major headache for business owners and residents in that area. Interestingly, as a side note to the KUB “Century II” project to replace old pipes under city streets, the oldest identified still in use in the city are under Jackson and date to 1893. Most other lines being replaced date to the 1920s.
Probably the most disappointing news for those of us anxious to see it developed, is the timeline for the McClung Warehouse redevelopment. Given that the Jackson ramp closures for a year or more and the the pending rebuilding of the Broadway viaduct over the rail yard will make access to the McClung site very difficult for the duration – and a staging area is required for the viaduct project, the RFP will not be issued for another three years! I understand it, but find it disappointing that the site will languish that much longer before we even see proposals.
The Cumberland corridor was discussed with an emphasis on the major amount of money being invested. It’s also surrounded by UT construction on either side of the road up and down the strip. The current phase of the project is set to be complete by this December and is certain to cause some angst starting tomorrow with the first home game and each subsequent home game for the entire season. All public work will be completed within the next two years, with the city of Knoxville investing around $17 million and KUB investing around $5 million. A figure of $140 million in private investments was discussed, though it was acknowledge that some of that would have been spent regardless of the advent of the streetscape plans.
I’m often asked what is happening on the Baptist Hospital site. To a casual observer, the project does not seem to be moving very rapidly. According to city officials, Blanchard Calhoun plans to begin construction during the last quarter of 2015, with a completion date sometime around a year-and-a-half to two years later. They hope to break ground on the student housing portion of the project – to the west of Chapman Highway – in the spring of 2016, with a completion date before students return in the fall of the following year. The two projects together represent an investment of around $160 million.
Also discussed were two developments out Sevier Avenue, Suttree Landing Park/Waterfront Drive and the River’s Edge apartment project. Suttree Landing/Waterfront Drive is scheduled for completion by next summer, with a total city investment of around $6.5 million. The River’s Edge project will require a $17 million private investment, while the city will spend about $2.5 million on infrastructure improvement.
The tour ended with two notes, one on each side of the Henley Bridge. Fort Dickerson continues to be developed and the city hopes to have the project completed next year at a tax-payer cost of around $1.2 million and additional private funding. The other project mentioned is the Old Supreme Court site, which the city plans to acquire from the state by the end of this year. No word on when the RFP will be issued.
So, there is a lengthy explanation of many of the cranes seen on the horizon of the city. If you add all those millions together, the scope of the transformation we are seeing in Knoxville begins to come into focus. It’s interesting to ponder the fact that just a few years ago the city was in what Bill Lyons called “disinvestment mode.” Somehow, as overwhelming as all the activity seems now, we may look back in a few years and realize it was just starting.