It’s been a long journey for the Ely Building (1903) at 406 Church Avenue. I first wrote a full article about it in May of 2012. On the market for $899,000 at the time, I thought it made a good investment. Each floor, including a basement and two above-ground floors are 2,000 square feet, for a total of 6,000 square feet. $150 per square foot would certainly be considered a bargain in the current downtown market.
The building subsequently sold to Eddie and Kelley Reymond for $725,000 about a year after that article. They first attempted to purchase 2 Market Square, but another offer was accepted before they made theirs. They looked at the Ely Building and fell in love with it. Kelley pointed out they bought it before they thought about it.
The sequence of events leading up to the sale and renovations illustrates the difficulties of completing downtown projects. Like most home purchases, it started with obtaining a loan. Like most loans, it started with finding comparable sales, or “comps.” Quick: Name all the other stand-alone residential properties in the uptown portion of downtown. Stumped? The Mary Boyce Temple House is the only one I can name, along with the small home beside it. One bank declined and another was contracted.
The loan secured, six months passed as architects discussed plans. Then the couple asked for internal demolition to expose anything that might prove to be an obstacle and, fortunately, did not unearth any major disasters. Many internal walls will be removed, particularly on the first floor which will be largely open.
The couple and their thirteen-year-old son are very excited to be making the move to downtown. A daughter who is a UT student, has accepted it and another daughter has refused to move. Moving downtown can cause family complications which generally work out in time. Urban Daughter was not happy to have her parents moving to the city (“where will I park when I visit?”), but she came around to love the idea. Perhaps the same will be true for their daughter.
Eddie grew up in Switzerland and his family parked a half-mile from their residence, so he’s not intimidated by parking downtown. He is a fitness advocate who owns and operates Eddie’s Health Shoppe in Bearden and the Knoxville Performance Lab. He also co-founded the Knoxville Marathon with Zane Hagy and is marketing Zen Evo dark chocolate which is now being sold in twenty-five states.
Kelley laughed and pointed out that the couple picked up cans to make money in their early years. Eddie said they love the city so much because it has given them such a good life. In twenty-six years of marriage, they’ve lived in Halls and then in the Bearden area for the last thirteen years. They greatly anticipated becoming involved in downtown and hope to contribute to its growth.
As far as the work to be done, there is plenty. The outside will be refurbished, but the historic facade will be maintained. And the outside is really in remarkable shape, especially for a building that has been vacant for so long. They said they’d had a little graffiti, but nothing major. The home includes thirty-four non-functioning, non-matching windows which will all have to be replaced.
Grace Construction will do the build-out of the plans developed by Sanders-Pace Architecture. The look will be modern and open. The couple has chosen to defer basement construction until a later date, focusing on the upper 4,000 square feet. Architectural details like doors and including the cool (somewhat mysterious) door knobs with the letter “M” and the beautiful, original pocket door will be preserved, though they will be moved around a bit.
Originally planning retail on the first floor, they realized the difficulties involved in making it ADA compliant for a business. Likely, another entrance would have been needed on the side where they would have been required to purchase handicapped parking spaces from St. John’s Episcopal. It became too complicated and they decided to make the bottom floor residential, though it could be converted at a later date. Plans call for the first floor to be a sitting room/living room/kitchen/dining and theater room.
The second floor will include a master bedroom with a very cool balcony (already in place above the front door). Two baths, a smaller bedroom and a very small bedroom/study will complete the floor. It’s the roof-top, however, which has generated some discussion. The structure will be about 25X15, providing an additional 375 square feet of enclosed space and an additional deck area. The Downtown Design Review Board approved the plans last fall.
A stainless steel, modern staircase will be a “focal point,” (we joked about the phrase) and will run from the basement up to the rooftop inside the eastern wall of the building. The stairwell will be open through each floor and the rooftop structure will be set slightly back from the street, but will be toward the front of the home. The open stairwell will allow light to filter from the rooftop through each floor.
The hope is to have construction completed and be able to move in by late this year. When they said it, it felt almost as if they were afraid to say it out loud. Suffice to say it has been a long journey, but they are getting closer to the end.