Armada Closes; Adjacent Development Continues

Armada, 116 S. Central Street, Knoxville, August 2015
Armada, 116 S. Central Street, Knoxville, August 2015

Armada, a craft cocktail bar which I profiled last summer closed earlier this month. A simple message posted to their Facebook page on February 5 read, “We are very sad to announce that tomorrow night, Saturday, 02/06/15 will be the last day of operation for Armada. Due to issues with the structural integrity of our walls we are not going to be able to continue to operate. We hope that all of our beloved regulars will come by and say goodbye!”

And with that, the business closed and sold their inventory. I reached out to building owner Thomas Boyd and business operator Zachary Calfee, but wasn’t able to speak with them. I was able to contact Jessica Cumbee, Zach’s wife, who told me, “. . . the building became unstable due to the neighboring building being torn down. Zach is currently managing the bar program for the Peter Kearn Library and the Oliver Royale, so we do not plan to reopen.  But he has brought the same handcraft touch to the Oliver . . .”

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

I was able to speak to Daniel Smith, one of the partners in the neighboring construction project and the person who met with me last fall to discuss the plans for that project. He acknowledged there was a period of time in which the wall appeared to be unstable. That conclusion became more complicated when a secondary wall of concrete block and wood-frame was discovered behind the original facade. Clearly it had been added in an era after the original construction and provided primary support while the original facade continued to erode.

A number of people have asked me about the slow down in progress in construction of the new building and part of the work stoppage was due to concerns about the other building. There were other factors at work, however, including permitting and site testing. Work will soon resume on the corner site and work will be done to the building formerly housing Armada. The conditions of all the development would have made operations at Armada extremely difficult.

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

In the interim, the building owners are coordinating to improve both properties. A right-of-way for egress from the former Armada building has been granted by Next Step Development which will enable development of the second floor of that building. Air rights have been granted by Thomas Boyd which will allow Next Step Development to place north-facing windows in their development.

Additionally, I learned that the plans as they stood last fall have been changed to include a basement which will serve as storage for the owners or tenants of the building. You should expect (depending on continuing permitting) to see construction resume around the end of March with pre-sales of the condominiums to follow soon thereafter.

So, overall, the story is another win for the city. We lose Armada, though we continue to benefit from Zach’s cocktail talents via Peter Kern and The Royale, we get an older building rehabilitated and we get a new building with a slightly improved design. That sounds a lot better than a simple business closure and a work stoppage.