Amazing New Condo and Retail Project Announced: Regas Square

Regas Exterior Rendering (3)

We’ve talked so many times on this site about good urban development. There are a number of common features – which turn out to be not-so-common. We’d all like to see parking lots turning to buildings and we’ve seen a little of that in recent months. We’d like to see retail rimming the bottom of new construction and we’d like it to include multi-use. Downtown needs, as we’ve discussed, homes for purchase and those homes need to be in a variety of sizes in order to be family-friendly. We’d also like any new construction to be high-quality and architecturally interesting. Is that too much to ask?

Not in the case of Regas Square, a development by Joe Petre of Conversion Properties in conjunction with Farris Eid and Jesse Galbraith with Design Innovation Architects. The new six-story building located on its name-sake, the old parking lot for Regas Restaurant, will have all of that, plus additional features you might not expect. The first floor will be rimmed with retail on Williams Street where it will face new retail development by Dewhirst Properties, along an entire block of Depot Avenue where it will face Southern Railway Station and Southern Depot, and along Gay Street.

The vision for the retail is for a high-end anchor restaurant on the corner of Gay and Depot, with a more casual, large restaurant on the corner of Depot and Williams. The retail between would be chosen  carefully to add to the quality of life of the residents as well as that of those nearby. Parking for retail will be along Depot and Gay, as well as in the 400 spaces beneath I-40. Initial emphasis by the developer will focus on pre-sales of the condominiums, with more attention given to the retail component at a later time.

Regas Square Rendering

The residential units will each feature attractive views, with high ceilings and large windows – a benefit made easier by ground-up construction. All bedrooms will have windows and each unit will have a large (about 7’X12′) balcony, while some three bedroom homes will have two balconies. The homes will range in size from about 700 square feet to over 2300 square feet, with a large proportion in the 1400 to 1900 range. A quarter of the one hundred units will be one bedroom, with about sixty-seven two bedroom and eight three-bedroom units.

Prices will range from $189,000 and the low $200,000 range upward to an as-yet-to-be-determined price for the largest penthouse, which will be the only unit to feature two floors, a mezzanine and roof-top access. The average price will be around $385,000, but this, according to Mr. Petre, is skewed by the price of the largest units some of which on the prominent corner will likely be in the $500,000 to $600,000 range.

The floors will be slightly elevated from the norm due to the fact that the first floor retail level is about two floors tall.  An HOA will be formed for the upper floors once they are sold while the bottom floor will remain in the possession of Conversion Properties. Residents will have access to storage, a club room and a fitness center as well as private parking on two levels behind the retail space.

Outdoor Courtyard

The building is large, and while standing at one end of the parking lot and surveying its length will give you an idea of scale along the street, look to the height of the AT&T building to get an idea of that of the new building, as it will be only slightly shorter. Due to the depth of the building, it will have an indention in the center which allows more units to have greater views and also provides the opportunity for one of the coolest features of the building: A shared outdoor courtyard for residents will sit atop the retail space and will be landscaped with trees, outdoor furniture and more.

The project is still in design and development and, in fact, if you compare the lined rendering to the color rendering, you see some minor differences, particularly in the prominent corner. The line drawing is the more current. There are still approvals to pursue, particularly a slight change in zoning. Facade approval should come next week when the concept is taken before the Downtown Design Review Board. The proposed facade is comprised largely of brick and glass with limestone and zinc accents

Joe becomes animated when talking about the project, saying, “Why haven’t we done this, already?” Part of the answer, he acknowledges, is the difficulty obtaining financing in the post-recession banking world. Still, he enthuses, “This is the first opportunity any of us have had to start fresh and determine what we want to do with a large piece of land.”

Site Plan

I asked him why retail, which seems important to this project, wasn’t included on the Walnut Street Garage. He pointed to a couple of factors: having a viable corridor for retail is important and the grade change on that property was severe in each direction. He sees Depot as a perfect corridor for retail and residential, noting it is a beautiful street with many projects underway, each of which will help support the others.

Noting that downtown has moved dramatically in the last several years, he says the timing is right for a project of this type. He said that he once got great advice from a developer in another city who suggested that he watch where development is headed and get in its way – which is precisely what this project will do – as it will be situated between the heart of downtown and all the development which is moving to the north.

Regas Exterior Rendering (3)

The time-table for the project is fluid and the pace of pre-sales will dictate some of the timing, but the hope is for an early spring ground-breaking. He pointed out that development is part science and part art. He feels the market is ready to support the project. His construction team, Matt Hasbrouck with TDH Construction, will be ready by early spring, in any case, and the expectation is that the total time for construction from beginning to end will be about eighteen months with a total cost in excess of thirty million dollars.

This development seems to me to have the complete package and is the first about which that could be said since I’ve been writing about downtown. It is, in fact, almost certainly the largest ground-up development of homes for purchase in the history of downtown. Marble Alley is larger, for example, but those homes are for lease.


  1. Why don’t they have a website for this project yet? I can’t find one.

  2. This is written for Nick, Oct 17. I feel your negative remarks concerning the homeless makes YOU look like a real JERK. How many mental health family members or friends do you have? Or are they on the street and YOU just sweep them away. When is last time you have spoken to or provided a meal, clean clothes, taken to a doctor or even to a mental health counselor any of these human beings? To use the word how they WROUGHT with illness, ordors; or your other word THAT STUFF. WHO ARE YOU? What puts you above others. I would guess you have been very crooked in your employment or personal life. YOU are not normal, but all slime. If you had any brains, you would educate yourself on school zoning, too. YOU are quick to put down politicians, guess what Mr Smarty pants, it all comes from the school system. GET YOUR BRAIN cells cleaned.

  3. Late to this topic for sure, but felt like it may still be worth mentioning. Long ago when the Old City was just re-birthing, this same problem with the homeless was encountered. There was some resistance, even a little bit of vandalism as a result of all these unwelcome visitors on what had been long considered “their turf”, but all these years later you don’t hear much if anything problem related in this aspect. I’m sure this will play out the same way, a bit of growing pains, but will smooth out over time.

    Thanks for the exciting news Urban Guy, our downtown would seem destined to become a great one!

  4. First: spectacular looking development idea and I hope it goes forward. We have to move into a phase where people are actually buying properties and living with families downtown instead of all post college 20 somethings living together and splitting the higher rent. If we want downtown ktown to go to the next level that’s absolutely essential. But people are right: the mission and homeless junction must be moved: period. It’s idiotic to me that Knoxville/community development Corp hasn’t done this already. Why would we try and place them in the highest rent district in town while also trying to cut crime? Anyone who’s ridden a bike or walked through that section particularly at night knows that it’s hardly “safe or inviting” feeling. These people are wrought with addiction, mental illness and need help. Putting them all around the highest percentage of people they can daily panhandle to for money to buy alcohol and drugs is hardy helpful to them either. Nashville, Asheville, Chattanooga and every other town around us has done the same thing and moved that stuff out of city center. If the development core can buy old properties and sell them off to developers they can certainly do the same there. Find them a nice piece of property outside the downtown area where the homeless can actually be safe and focus on wellness instead of focusing on walking to market square to panhandle for money and the bars to get their next fix.

    And the school zoning is also an impediment: change downtown and historic overlay section to have school choice. Only way to get families with young kids engaged to move down there. Simple zone change and we all know it can be done if we get some forward thinking politicians in this town.


    • I have lived downtown for over two years and routinely walk down Depot either alone or when I walk my dogs. I have never experienced any of the feelings you describe. I feel quite safe and Depot is inviting. It is well shaded and quiet and the sidewalks are better than many of the other ones downtown. I run into a few homeless people and I say hi to them and go on my merry way. We truly can coexist, people of different races, socioeconomic class, religious and political views. Downtown is a lot more beautiful when it is laced with diversity.

  5. However people may feel about the homeless population in the area and what effect this development may have on that, there certainly is a very busy interstate a block away that is somewhat unappealing. I doubt it will hurt the project, but I would be hesitant to spend the $300-$500K I don’t have to be so close to the interstate. Exciting project, nonetheless!

  6. I’d consider moving my family downtown…. what is the school system situation like?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      It’s a mixed bag. Elementary school is premium: Sequoyah Elementary. I think it runs Vine Middle and Austin East/Central after that, but I could be wrong. That’s where it currently gets complicated for families. I wish, rather than a STEM school, the L&N had been converted to a K-12 for downtown/Ft. Sanders. But I wasn’t asked. 🙂

      • Would be an interesting adaptive reuse project to convert the Civic Auditorium for part of a potential downwotn high school….

  7. Love it! I heard the bus station will move sooner rather than later to make way for new development. The land the shelter is on will soon be worth so much that the owners will be able to better serve the homeless by selling the land for a profit and moving the shelter to a less expensive area.

    • Where would they move the shelter that would be less expensive and still be a good location for their customers? There are not a lot of obvious locations in knoxville for this sort of service.

  8. Karyn Altshuler says

    So excited about this project and would love info on pre-sales when you have it!!

  9. Scott Scheinbaum says

    “This is the first opportunity any of us have had to start fresh and determine what we want to do with a large piece of land.”
    While this is a fantastic project, what Joe is saying isn’t quite accurate. Marble Alley started fresh with a large piece of land and broke ground 18 months ago.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I think he was referring to himself and his partners in this project, not claiming they were the first to take on a ground up project, but you are right.

  10. I am beyond excited about this!

  11. Brian Griffin says

    Great plan. I hope it succeeds. Concerns about the homeless prod me to ask, suppose somebody were bold enough to propose and build affordable housing? And suppose efforts to find housing for the homeless were not shot down by “not in my backyard” folks, as has happened in our town? In other words, would it not be good for everyone, rich and poor alike, if city planning included the poor, rather than excluded them? They occupy space like the rest of us.

  12. I’m a Knoxville native living in NYC for the last 20+ years. I’ve been following the renaissance of downtown with great interest (and more than a little pride in my old hometown—thanks Urban Guy for your great blog!) From my perspective, the bus station and missions, per se, are not necessarily the problem. The problem is that for a long time, the bus station and missions have been the ONLY thing that’s down there. In the absence of a viable, diverse neighborhood, standards for permissible behavior have been pretty lax. Put a couple hundred residents on that block with a vested interest in the neighborhood’s quality of life and things will change pretty significantly. I’ve seen in happen.

  13. There should have been retail in the Walnut Street Garage. The City missed out on an opportunity to build a retail corridor from Union to Summit Hill. EVERYTHING about that garage is wrong. Do not even get me started on the south façade.

  14. This is good news in the making. Downtown is really expanding on many fronts – Regal looking at south waterfront HQ. Lisa took my thoughts. Not to nay say here but there is a big difference between a $200K homebuyer and a $500K+ buyer age, economics and comfort levels in home buying. In short, I see these expansions (Mews – Regas) as great $200K housing.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Most of them will be between $200,000 and $350,000 if I understand it correctly. Only five units will be over $500 K.

  15. Woot! Depot Ave itself is extremely attractive with the large trees and the view overlooking the Southern Railway station. When the extreme makeovers on the existing buildings are done and this new place is built, the street will look like a million bucks.

  16. Awesome news, and the start of a new growth phase for downtown. I think Jeremy has it right. Many of us would not let the proximity of shelters designed to help those of us who are less fortunate get in the way of this type of investment. It’s all good.

  17. with you Lisa.

  18. Where can we find information on the pre-sales? Google searches are coming up empty…

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      You can’t or I would have linked to them. Pre-sales will start this winter sometime and will have a dedicated site. You can check back with Conversion Properties, but I’ll try to pass that information along when it happens, as well.

  19. Jennifer Roche says

    Knoxville has been primed for a development like this and I’m so very happy to see it happening.

  20. Way to go, Joe! What an amazing project.

  21. So lets discuss the elephant in the room – what about the Rescue Mission – you can’t pretend it isn’t just across from the fancy new Regas development – I have a hard time picturing anyone paying $300K+ with that being the next door neighbor, unless, of course, watching homeless people sleeping, going to the restroom and standing in line for food is the new chic.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Lisa, The rescue mission is a couple of blocks away – not just across the road. I do believe people will snap these homes up, just as they have the Mews condos which are about a block in the other direction – across the street from both I-40 and the bus station. I do believe that there will be some tension between the groups as development continues to encroach on that area, but I don’t believe it will stop the development. Others?

      • Mission and the bus station will be major concerns for a period of time until enough people choose to invest in this area. With this project is one step closer to really developing this area which shud encourage others to do so

        • I’m one on the Mews buyers (closing soon), and I can say that the Mission/Homeless is an issue. My thought is that the location is too cool to be scared away by vagrants. The Mews struck a great balance by having secure parking and a private courtyard. I am so excited to be a part of all this. But Lisa’s concern must be addressed by the City in order for these developments to be successful.

    • After living in this specific area for about 5 years, I’ve witnessed it grow beautifully. It’s my observation that the type of progressive people who would initially purchase these condos are the same ones who do not think twice about the homeless… I’m sure resurgence will push the rescue eventually, but a lot of our extended community embraces the mission and its people. I would absolutely buy one of those units and I will be sad to see the mission go (if it does) honestly. I’m opening a high – end salon behind the mission. Not only do my Farragut/ West clients not mind, they are a majority of financial investors. They are excited and we will even have some homeless people helping us out!

    • s.m. dupree says

      Old school residents and habituates of downtown worked this out several years ago. There are a couple of factors to consider. Factor number one is that you tend to notice the numbers of the indigent population because that is all there are. Once there are home-owning citizens, restaurant and shopping going citizens, on the street, the homeless/indigent will not be anywhere near as noticeable. Factor number two is privacy. Those inclined to do things that are illegal or even simply unpleasant would rather do so in private. Having lots of citizens around to report, photograph, visually disapprove and even interdict will (and has) cut down rather severely on such activity. However, the fact that you voice these concerns may well indicate that you are not ready to live in such a place. It may well be that the suburbs are a better choice for you. That is fine, Northshore Town Center needs business too.

    • I don’t care about the impact the mission and their clients will pose for the sellers. I don’t care that some corner units in this building will have a view of them linging up for services in the evening. Heck, I don’t care that the upper units on the freeway side won’t be able to open their windows or sit on the deck due to the noise.

      I do care about it what it will mean for the homeless. This sort of development over time in other cities has lead to more encounters between the homeless and peace officers and even to the building for these services to be relocated.

      What is the city of Knoxville’s plan for addressing these issues? Or – since no one is willing to run against the mayor and many of the city council members – is it something they’re not worried about. After all, it’s not like they’ll loose their office over poor citizens being pushed aside in the name of gentrification.

  22. Awesome news!!! These are the days i live for when we get such awesome news about downtown as this. This has definitely made my day, week, month… Downtown just continues to get better and better thanks to all these amazing developers.

  23. WOW!! What terrific news to begin a new day! When I first read the introductory criteria for good urban development, I at first thought they were simply academic musings or wishful thinking on the part of well-intentioned municipal officials. But as I read further, I was amazed at how well the developers and architects of this Regas Square proposal seemed to check off all of the design elements, mixed use features, and quality amenities that you listed. If all goes according to plan, this project could also set a very high standard for future proposals at the McClung Warehouses site and the remaining asphalt parking lots in downtown proper. What a great new beginning!

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