Updates From Around Downtown

KUB Building, Corner of Gay and Church, Knoxville, February 2016

KUB Building, Corner of Gay and Church, Knoxville, February 2016

Occasionally over the years I’ve given updates about projects I’ve mentioned some time back or developments which others reported first and you might have missed. So, here’s a chance to make sure we all know what’s going on.

The Tombras Group, an advertising and public relations firm, reportedly purchased the KUB building and the adjacent building. If you haven’t lived here long enough to know the building, perhaps you’ll know it as the glazed green brick building on the corner of Church and Gay, across from the Rowing Man sculpture. According to the News Sentinel, the company plans to invest $10 million in the building, which will include a replacement of the facade. They are asking for a $1.7 million tax deferment package from the city.

The best news in that announcement was the indication from Mr. Tombras that the company previously avoided showing downtown to the young, creative-types they recruit and now it has become their biggest selling point and the place their employees want to be. The facade concerns me. I’ve never thought of it as particularly attractive, but it’s one of a very few examples of mid-modern architecture in the downtown area. Do we want everything to look like it was built in 1897?

View of Marble Alley Construction from Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2015

Gap Between the Century Building and Mast, Formerly the Union Bus Terminal, Knoxville, August 2015

Also slipped in about that same time, was the news that Tim Hill has acquired the parking lot between the Century Building and Mast General Store where he plans to build a six-story retail and condo development. I hope to learn more about that.

Two potential/planned restaurants are the source of a number of questions directed my way: J.C. Holdway and the Lonesome Dove concept restaurant owned by Tim Love. Tim Love indicated last fall that he would have a version of his Love Shack restaurant adjacent to or near his restaurant planned for the “no later than the spring of 2016.” The plans as reported by the News Sentinel sound grand. It’s been a year since I first heard their intent and so far no obvious construction has begun. Maybe summer?

Patrick Sullivan's

Patrick Sullivan’s, Purportedly Set to be a Tim Love Concept Restaurant

J.C. Holdway is still on, as far as I know, for the Daylight building, though I’m as surprised as anyone that the construction there hasn’t begun. It was slated for a winter opening, that became spring, now it’s spring. Here’s hoping it’s soon and I’ll let you know if I learn more.

A couple of things of note have happened on Magnolia. First, the long rumored possible move of the Greyhound station became an open discussion with their announcement. The News Sentinel article indicated they need a “smaller footprint” and that they’ve had “brief” talks with the transit center.

I agree the bus terminal needs to move, but I hope one thing happens and another doesn’t. I hope the building is preserved for a new use. I think it is very cool and refurbished would be excellent for use as another business. What I hope doesn’t happen: That they use the transit center. I do not believe that would be a good marriage.

Also on Magnolia, Marie’s Old Town Tavern has moved from 202 W. Magnolia. A set of apartments will soon be built adjacent to the building, so something was likely to give. The new location is just off Central Street a couple of blocks from Broadway, near Striped Light. Arguably, both this and the Greyhound move can be seen as gentrification of the area. It probably is, but it seems inevitable. Areas change and this one is changing in a big way.

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

World Fair Park Amphitheater, Knoxville, March 2016

The World’s Fair Park has seen a change of sorts that I don’t think I’ve seen reported elsewhere: the Amphitheater has gotten a makeover. After some months with the seats removed, new, nicer seats have replaced them. What isn’t as visible is that the green rooms/areas beneath the seats have been improved. At over 1200 seats (by my count) and (mostly) sheltered, it seems like an ideal spot for a concert series. I’ve seen a number of shows there over the years (Buddy Guy/Robert Earl Keen/Fastball/Clarence Gatemouth Brown/KSO/Dylan Birthday Bash) and it works really well. Here’s hoping.

Prepping the walls, Artist Alley Revamp Project, Strong Alley, Knoxville, November 2012

Prepping the walls, Artist Alley Revamp Project, Strong Alley, Knoxville, November 2012

I also get asked weekly about the status of the restrooms in the Market Square Garage. I asked Rick Emmett for a progress report on that and the alley project behind Market Square. He told me a bid is in place for the restrooms, but a construction contract and approval of that by city council are needed. That done, construction should start sometime next month and completion should come by the end of spring. The Strong Alley project is a little further along, with a contractor in place. It involves a “complete rebuild of storm system and possibly some other utility” work, but it should be completed about the same time – around the end of May or early June.


  1. Larry Lewis says

    Wondering whether the news about Tim Hill and his parking lot might spur some movement regarding the nearby Cal Johnson building, as a side effect. With its H-1 overlay in place, along with Marble Alley inching towards fruition, perhaps even Bacon & Co will be moved to market this property?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I wish I could even convince myself to hope. No good signals from them that I’ve heard.

      • I am slightly confused as to what this could do to the plans for marble alley and that parking lot. Could you please elaborate?

  2. Sue Groves says

    Is there any news regarding the retail and condos proposed to be built in the Regas parking lot?

  3. I’m wondering about the Jackson Avenue street scape and the rebuilding of the ramps on Jackson Avenue – I thought that was already supposed to have started. Also – is there any update on plans for the McClung Warehouse space?

    • The Jackson Ave. ramps project is scheduled to start Spring of 2017.

    • According to the Mayor, this project is delayed because of the pending rebuild of the Broadway viaduct (I think that’s what you call it). Once that’s done the Jackson Ave. work can begin.

      • Thanks for the update Paul – I know all of us on Jackson Avenue can’t wait to see what it looks like!

  4. I have walked past Sullivan’s and seen people working inside for a couple months now. I don’t know how the progress of the Love Shack is going, but the way it was announced to be an “outdoor only” eatery may make that hard to figure out. Also I’ve seen that they’ve actually started some kind of renovation on the other corner of the building that has Pilot Light and Hot Horse. As well as on Pilot Light itself. Any news on that?

  5. Kudos for the improvements to the amphitheater in Worlds Fair Park. It would be nice if UT performing groups made use of it. Or maybe even a few outdoor versions of the Blue Plate Special.

    So why wouldn’t you want Greyhound in the transit center? Wouldn’t it be natural to the hub for local buses and long-distance buses in the same place, so passengers can easily connect from one to the other?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      We already have the Megabus connecting riders to the downtown transit center. Honestly, I get more nervous around the Greyhound station with the people who come and go than I do walking through the mission district. Maybe it’s just my bias. My ponytail just stands a little bit on its end at times.

      • Leslie Myers says

        I lived a block up from the greyhound station for years and always saw it as more of a detriment to downtown north development than the mission district. I’m really excited to hear it could be moving, and I hope the station is renovated! It could be a really cool space. Do you have any word on if/where Marie’s moved, or did they just shut down completely?

  6. One of the local news stations interviewed the owner of Bacon & Co. about the future of the Cal Johnson building and his response was encouraging. Any news on the Vine row houses?

  7. > the company plans to invest $10 in the building

    Big spenders… πŸ™‚

  8. Tangentially regarding the discussion on panhandling, I would love to see Greyhound have a much much smaller impact on our community, and wouldn’t mind seeing it gone altogether. Greyhound brings a lot of drifters through our area that give a bad name to the local homeless population and cause a lot of trouble. Like an Old City cab driver told me once, “Greyhound brings nothing but fleas.”

  9. What is going on in the Kress Building on Gay Street? There is definite work taking place, but I haven’t heard lately if Bullmans and Wild Wings are still planning to move into some of the space? It seems that work has been going for a while without much progress. If they’re not moving in, who is?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Bullman’s is not moving in. I haven’t heard about Wild Wings in a while. I understand they’ve shifted course on the upper floors and hope to sell the upper spaces as condos, so maybe that’s some of the commotion. It’s on my list. πŸ™‚

  10. What about the former news sentinel sight

  11. Alan – as long as we are all grilling you for information. I have two questions – What is going on with the building that is diagonally across from Balter Beerworks and across from the Southeastern Glass Building? And, with the Jackson Avenue ramps being redone – does David Dewhirst now have an opportunity to build his “underground” Knoxville?

  12. Alan – “as long as we are all grilling you for information,” what is happening at Gay and Cumberland? I could swear when I went into the Bijou last Saturday afternoon that there were some signs of construction work, but when I came out a few hours later, a section of Gay on the other side of Cumberland was fenced off and someone had moved in heavy equipment and gravel. Or maybe I just didn’t notice it at first?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      The 700 block of Gay Street is being completely re-done. I’m guessing you just didn’t notice it on your way in. The hope is to have it mostly finished in the next few weeks (before Rossini).

  13. Art Wagner says

    As far as the empty space on Gay Street, I believe that there are actually three lots comprising that space. Hatcher/Hill has bought the one next to the Century Bldg. The other two, which are larger, are owned by David Dewhirst, I think. Since Marble Alley has projected using some of that as some kind of atrium/arcade/pass-thru to State Street, what’s going on with that?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I haven’t asked since Tim Hill purchased the one lot, but the atrium plans were never eminent, so they may still be on in the other lots or not, I’ll add it to my (rapidly growing) list of things to find out.

  14. Rumor has it that the Pilot Light will wash it’s windows before the new eatery opens in the old Sullivan bldg.

  15. I have a suggestion for downtown – when I lived in Arcadia, California the Arcadia Arboretum (where Fantasy Island was filmed) set up a partial dome and during the summer (6-8 times) the symphony would play there. There were tables for 6-10 set up and you could purchase an entire table for the season (or one at a time) and bring in all your own food. The people who bought the tables would bring in linens, flowers, ice buckets for wine and champagne and all their own food. Everyone ate and visited between 6 and 8 and then the symphony started and played until 10. It really was a lovely evening. There was also general admission on the grass behind the tables where you could bring a blanket and picnic.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      It sounds lovely. I think the same thing could be done at our amphitheater. It sounds similar to what happens at Chastain Park in Atlanta (or used to – it’s been years since I was there).

    • Sue Groves says

      Fabulous idea! I’m from Chicago and always loved going to Ravinia where something similar was done…great fun.

  16. Have they started to build anything yet at the old Baptist hospital site? I haven’t been in town for a long time…

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