A few weeks ago announcements were formally made that The Tennessean (531 Henley St.), a blend of high-end luxury hotel rooms and condominiums, would soon come to the former state office building beside the downtown Holiday Inn. Most people don’t realize the two adjacent properties have been under different ownership, assuming the entire structure to be part of the Holiday Inn. In fact, the buildings, built for the World’s Fair in 1982, have been under split ownership from the end of the fair onward. The state building had fallen to about a 30% occupancy rate.
Commercial and Investment Properties, the same owners as the Holiday Inn, now owns both buildings and will covert the former offices into 82 hotel rooms and suites, plus “meeting and event space, fitness center, valet parking, room service” (to residents as well as guests), and “fine spirits in a refined, contemporary atmosphere in the hotel’s Drawing Room” (also open to the public).
Additionally, twelve residences located on the top two floors offer spectacular views in every direction, as you can see in the photographs, which were taken from the top floor. Depending on the orientation of a particular unit, the view may include the mountains and river, Neyland Stadium and The Hill on UT campus, the World’s Fair Park, the Knoxville Museum of Art and one of the best skyline views of Knoxville available from any place I’ve seen. In some of the units the Sunsphere is so close it’s practically a piece of furniture.
The symbiosis with the Holiday Inn will be utilized to provide a number of amenities. Parking, for example, will be included in the existing garage, but will be segregated into a private parking area with designated spaces for the condominium owners. Direct access from the garage to the homes will be provided and catering for parties will be offered as a service from the Windows on the Park restaurant.
The homes will have separate internal walls with sound batting in between to ensure no sound will travel between units. In one of the photographs here you see workers removing 1200 pound pieces of cement, which surround each floor, in order to provide floor to ceiling windows. The units are all two-bedroom and 2 1/2 baths and range from just over 1800 square feet to over 2300 square feet. Each floor will offer trash removal and dedicated storage space for each unit.
The hotel rooms are far from conventional, sprawling to 670 square feet as opposed to the more typical downtown hotel room running around 380 square feet. The showers measure 4X6, each room includes a safe and a refrigerator, along with the same floor-to-ceiling windows as the condos. While guests and owners will share an elevator, only owners will have the ability to go to the residential floors.
The project is different from any other undertaken to this point in our city. As I toured the building at least two groups from UT’s hospitality department toured separately. Both mayors have heralded the development with Mayor Rogero pointing to the importance of development surrounding the World’s Fair Park and connecting downtown, UT and Fort Sanders. The development’s proximity to the convention center, with a covered walkway between the two, could afford a useful relationship between the two.
Pricing for the hotel rooms have not been set, but the condominiums start around $1.2 million. While the price might make some question whether Knoxville is ready for that price point, I’ll offer an observation and a piece of information:
For the last couple of years I’ve heard stories of people moving to Knoxville, wanting luxury property in that price range and being disappointed with the limited choices. We’ve cracked the $1 million mark only a couple of times and have at least one residence on the market in that range, now. But none of those include the kinds of amenities people in that price range want, while this project is designed to do exactly that.
The piece of information I’ll offer to counter that perception, is that one of the twelve units has sold within the first three weeks of being offered and another appears to be close behind. Clearly they aren’t for most of us, but for those who can afford it, there appears to be a demand.
The total investment in the project will be around $27 million. This follows a $10 million investment the group made in upgrades to the Holiday Inn in 2010. The two expenditures together make it clear this group feels Knoxville is ready to support a project such as this one. Construction is well underway with an anticipated opening date of early in 2017.