A bit of a media frenzy ensued when a press release announced the opening of the Mill and Mine at 225 W. Depot, an entertainment and concert venue and complex of sorts. Mercury ran with it, the News Sentinel followed. Blank and the television networks joined in. And the excitement is warranted, as it is a great development for downtown. David Dewhirst called it “infill in the right way.” Maybe I’ll give the rest of you a detail you may not have heard through those various sources.
I wrote in detail about the project last May and, if anything, the reality is better than the long-range plans would have indicated, though they’ve largely remained consistent. It’s worth going back and looking at that link simply for the photographs which highlight how far the building has come in the last ten months.
I actually wrote about the site even further back, in the aftermath of the fire which destroyed the Industrial Belting and Supply Building and burned the roof off the current space. It seemed doubtful at that point anything good would happen on the site. The name of the new venue is a tip of the hat to the burned building, as Industrial Belting supplied equipment for both mines and mills.
At yesterday’s press conference, David Dewhirst told of bringing Ashley Capps onto the site with hopes he might be modestly encouraging about the prospects of regularly staging concerts in the venue. After “two seconds, Ashley said, ‘Let’s Rock!'” And so the collaboration between David Dewhirst, Mark Heinz and Ashley Capps began in earnest.
What they’ve accomplished according to Mr. Dewhirst is to provide Knoxville with a larger version of the very successful Standard which the company operates on Jackson Avenue. Ashley Capps noted that while Knoxville has two amazing downtown theaters, this venue will provide the opportunity to present artists and shows which have skipped Knoxville in the past.
With 20,000 square feet and enough room for 1200 people , seated or standing, and a VIP mezzanine, it’s different from our other facilities and should attract artists who prefer general admission audiences. It will also have green rooms, state of the art lights and sound and an easy load-in for bands behind the building.
AC Entertainment books about 1,000 shows a year, in addition to numerous festivals. They also book bands for the Orange Peel in Asheville, Track 29 in Chattanooga and Marathon Music Works in Nashville, each of which share some characteristics with this new space. Ashley said his staff pointed out to him how successful each of those venues have been and the impact they’ve had on the surrounding areas in each of those cities and asked him, “Why not Knoxville?”
Also designed for larger weddings and events, the space will accommodate up to 500 for a formal, seated dinner. Plans are still fluid for the portion of the space bordering Williams Street, but it will likely be a restaurant with outdoor seating. The two spaces can also be used in conjunction, with the kitchen in the restaurant used to cater events in the Mill and Mine.
But wait, there’s more! Also included will be a 10,000 square foot outdoor space which will be a gathering spot for the community whether or not an event is scheduled inside the Mill and Mine. Cash bars, restrooms, seating areas, live music and movies might be expected there. Seating for outdoor music will be available on a balcony extending from the main building.
On display at the press conference was the close working and personal relationships between city government and local developers. Ashley recalled how often now Mayor Rogero would come into Ella Guru’s in the early 1990s, particularly to hear artists from New Orleans. She fondly recalled the same and thanked Ashley for “the music you’ve introduced us to.” The city has invested 100K in a facade grant in addition to a Pilot, with the vast majority of the investment coming via Dewhirst Properties. Dewhirst pointed out, however, “We would not be here without the city.”
Big Ears will be the first event to use the new space, with the Sun Ra Arkestra being the first act to take the new stage. Interestingly, they were the final act to play Ella Guru’s, a fact which Ashley said is purely coincidence. A number of additional events including charity dinners, weddings and concerts have been booked or are in serious negotiation. Free parking is available nearby. Expect concerts and other events starting mid-summer.
Development along this corridor has heated up beyond anyone’s expectations of just a very few years ago. This development backs up to Tennessee Valley Bikes and Public House. The opposite corner of the block will soon be developed. The project will be bounded on Depot by the massive Regas Square development and new retail and housing being built by Dewhirst Properties on vacant lots to the east. It’s a lot to watch in just a few block area and it’s all very exciting.