Featuring some of the most attractive downtown buildings, Emory Place once featured its own market house and sat at the north end of the street car line. Intended to be a sort of second Market Square, it has retained some of its symmetry and appeal, if it has lost some of its energy in recent years. Now home to several thriving businesses, it seems set to return to a center of activity and commerce.
I took a look into two of the buildings there and the businesses which are, or will soon inhabit them. Both companies represent the kind of youthful entrepreneurship that fuels a city’s growth. It also sets a good tone for businesses which might soon fill the other buildings surrounding them.
16 Emory Place was originally 14 and 16 Emory Place. Built around 1927, it served as an extension of Ashe Hosiery Mills whose original building still sits across the street. Over the years it housed Benton White Goods Manufacturing, a uniform supply company, a union hall and a wholesale drug store. Eventually it became subdivided into offices whose most recent incarnation appears to have been preserved from the 1980s. Through it all, the building has been maintained and is in great structural shape.
Julianna and John Texada recently purchased the property through Conversion Properties who will develop the property on their behalf. John a local MD and Julianna whose literary blog Curio Chronicle (Curiochronicle.org) is under development, will make a portion of the top (third) floor of the building their residence. At just over 3,000 square feet, it will feature a roof-top room and deck. John said the couple had tried living in the country and in the heart of downtown and felt a spot just outside downtown would be the best of both worlds – they can still walk to amenities, but have a less crowded, more open place to live. An 1100 square foot apartment will also be included on that floor for lease.
Much of the original hardwood flooring is intact and the ceilings range from thirteen to seventeen feet. Utilizing historic tax credits, the building will be renovated internally, recapturing as much of the historic detail as possible. An elevator will be added to the side/rear of the building which is where a residential lobby will be constructed. The facade of the building will be returned to a look as similar as possible to the original look as pictured in the early photograph, including two entrances, larger windows and a similar structure to the one shown extending from the upper floor. All construction should be complete within a year.
Each of the first two floors will be leased for office space and while the 4,000 square feet on the second floor are still available through Conversion Properties, the first floor has been leased to The IT Company. Founded in 2003 and changing to its current name in 2011, its offices have been located in west Knoxville, in a very suburban environment. The company, headed by CEO Paul Sponcia, CTO Chris Kennedy, partner Nadeem Siddiqi and Director of Accounting, Lora Rinehart decided they needed more space and desired a downtown location.
Paul said the group values the opportunity for recreation as several of the members run and they will purchase bikes for everyone so they have dining options downtown for lunch. He sees it as a great recruiting tool and more in line with the image the company maintains. Acknowledging it would have been easier to find another suburban place, they strongly wanted this kind of location and value the historic nature of older buildings.
They wanted a ground-level space to engage and connect with the community and wanted to make the space reflect their aesthetic with, “an artisan/craft period look and feel.” To that end, they will have standing desks that the group designed and built themselves from shipping crates and pallets. Windows harvested from Tailor Lofts will grace interior walls and antique industrial fans will be mounted to the ceiling simply for their look. They want their retro space to captivate people’s attention when they enter and they want it to be a space where people want to work and do business.
The company provides IT services for small businesses, from setting up and supporting networks through any IT need a company might have. For a flat fee they provide all the support necessary for their clients, many of whom are local medical providers such as Premier Surgical, Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Baptist Eye Surgeons and others. They particularly help these groups design systems which are HIPAA compliant.
Their space, for which you see the plans here, should be ready in January, making their fifteen employees the first new occupants in the building. Acknowledging it would have been easier to find another suburban place, they strongly wanted this kind of location and value the historic nature of older buildings. Jay Cobble, who along with Daniel Odle helped broker the deal agreed with Paul that “finding edgy office space takes commitment because the deals are a lot more work. I represent some other more creative type millennial companies as well and it truly takes a real passion and effort to find the right space for this generation’s cultural fit.”
Across the street at 17 Emory Place is a very cool wedge-shaped building, purported to have been north Knoxville’s first post office. Two Roads accounting firm, founded by Adam Slack, started as a family business and gradually grew. Like The IT Company, their previous home was also suburban in a small home on a busy road in west Knoxville. They strongly wanted a downtown location centered among the small businesses they help, feeling it reinforces their brand among their clients, whom they call “partners.” Fulfilling payroll functions and all other accounting needs, the group counts as its clients, K-Brew, Plaid Apron, Brown Bag and more.
They also wanted a place where they could step out the front door and walk to other businesses or take a run, if they wanted. They love the feel of their new building, a Hatcher-Hill property, with the exposed brick and elegant facade. They want it to be a place where friends want to hang out and just happen to be working. The core of the team includes Chad Ridner, Joe Carufe, Zach Cochran, April Randolph and Adam Tinker. In addition to each of these, who you will often find at the new address, they have eleven workers who work from home.
Their model is also a flat fee for complete services, from accounting to check-handling, from payroll to taxes. Basically, for companies which are tired of opening bills, balancing books and other tedious task, they come in and take the stress out of those important functions. Their clients range from restaurants to dentists and chiropractors. It is their intention to double or triple in size within the next year and they are off to a good start, recent winning Intuit’s award for “Most Forward Thinking, Most Technologically Savvy Company.”
Development is moving north of downtown at such a rapid pace, it is near impossible to keep track of it all. Clearly, this area is changing dramatically and will soon be a very different area than it has been in the recent past. Companies like these and preservation projects like those represented by these buildings are a key to that development. It’s important that building owners find the right business owners and bring other buildings in the area back to life.
In other business, I’ve got a pair of tickets to giveaway to the Donna the Buffalo show this Sunday night at the Bijou Theatre. If you’d be interested in attending the show, send me an email at email@example.com. Put “I’m part of the Herd” in your subject line and send it no later than midnight tonight. Include your name and contact information.