Demolition and Construction Set for Central Street in the Old City

Buildings set for demolition - 120 through 122 Central Street, Knoxville, November 2015
Buildings set for demolition – 120 through 122 South Central Street, Knoxville, November 2015

Last May a group made an initial presentation to the Downtown Design Review Board detailing their plans to demolish the buildings at 120 – 122 Central Street and replace them with an attractive three-story building. The plans have changed since that first report and now include a larger, four story, brick building. The project is in motion and demolition should begin this Sunday unless something changes.

I met with Daniel Smith one of the developers behind Next Step Development, a group organized for this project. Grieve and Assicates architects drew the original and modified plans and Next Step is in talks with Creative Structures for the construction. The group is excited to get started with what they feel will be a significant contribution to the Old City.

Elevation 2
Side View of Planned Building facing Willow Street at Willow and South Central

There are several significant changes in the project as it will go forward, when compared to the original proposal. The most readily apparent is the addition of a fourth floor. Initially, the group presented a three-story structure to be relatively consistent in height with the nearby buildings, but it became clear that the Downtown Design Review Board felt comfortable with a taller building and it was expanded.

Smaller changes have also been made in the plan, including the addition of set of stairs at the front end of the building. This gives a set  at each end of each floor in addition to an elevator in the rear. Another change, which I believe many of you will greet positively, is the removal of a residential space on the bottom floor facing Willow. It will be replaced with a retail space.

The bottom floor will now be entirely retail and the group plans to retain ownership of this space, while selling the units above. As currently envisioned, there will be three retail spaces facing the street. Two will face Central and will include 3500 square feet in the corner space and 1900 square feet in the second. The new retail facing Willow will have about 1200 square feet of space. Depending on tenants, these figures could shift to accommodate needed space and configurations.

Floor Plans for Floors 2,3 and 4, Residential Units
Floor Plans for Floors 2,3 and 4, Residential Units

The three upper floors will include five condos on each floor for a total of fifteen housing units. Each unit will be two bedrooms and two baths and will feature tile in the baths, granite counter-tops and hardwood floors. Each of the three floors will have the same plan. Each floor will include two 1100 square foot units facing north  and three 1300 to 1400 square foot units facing south.

While prices are not firmly set, the hope is to keep the six facing north at a price point somewhere below $300K, while the larger units facing south will likely range from the low to mid $300K range. It’s a price that would be in line with other prices downtown, but would offer hard-to-find two bedroom, two bath designs.

As stated earlier, the timeline includes the beginning of demolition this Sunday. Demolition will take about three weeks, slowed in part by the fact that one of the two buildings coming down sits against another property owner’s building and care must be taken not to extend the damage. Assuming that portion of the timeline is accurate, construction – subject to damp weather delays – would begin in December with a projected eleven month duration.

Front of Proposed Building Facing Central at 120 and 122 South Central
Front of Proposed Building Facing Central at 120 and 122 South Central

Financing, an issue that sidelines many well-intentioned projects is not an issue. Daniel said Clayton Banks has been easy to work with, not requiring pre-sales as a condition of the loan. Pre-sales will, however, begin right away and early purchasers will have the possibility of not only influencing finishes, but also design. He indicated a project of this size is treated differently than a more massive project in which the bank might require pre-sales. Still, it seems hopeful that local banks are confident that, at least in this current era for downtown, if you build it, they will come.

So, in a year that has seen the first parking lots turn to buildings with the Marble Alley project, we have a race to see who will complete the first mixed-use, ground up construction in the modern Knoxville era. In addition to this project, others have been announced on Depot in the form of three small mixed-use buildings representing the first new construction for Dewhirst Properties and the previously mentioned – and of a scale all its own – project on the former Regas parking lot. It should be a fun race to watch.