A New Building Designed for 107 Commerce

Rendering of Planned Building at 107 Commerce, Knoxville, March 2017 (Courtesy ForK Designs)

It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since I first mentioned a small parking lot purchased by Kevin and Melinda Grimac. Not really looking to make the purchase, the opportunity presented itself at 107 Commerce Street and the couple couldn’t resist. The proximity to the (then under construction) Marble Alley Lofts made the possibility of additional residences and/or commercial space more appealing. The couple has been investing in downtown properties since 1993 and currently own properties around the city, including the Arcade Building (home to Knoxville Office Suites) while Melinda, as a realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty also lists properties for sale in the city. The couple also leases an apartment above Sugar Mama’s (135 South Gay), which will come available in July.

In the two years which have passed, Marble Alley (phase 1) has been completed and is largely full and downtown continues to expand at a rapid pace. During that time the Daniel has opened in the Old City, Regas Square has pre-sold many of their units and broken ground. In short, this isn’t the same downtown it was even a couple of years ago. And the demand for housing doesn’t seem to be diminished.

Current View of 107 Commerce, Knoxville, March 2017 (Photo Courtesy of Forrest Kirkpatrick)

When approaching the building, Melinda said she wanted it to check off all the items her clients generally desire, but have difficulty finding in one spot. These include large windows, a private outdoor space, high ceilings, dedicated, nearby parking and storage. The building will have all these amenities, plus gas appliances and energy star units.

Originally conceived as a three story building, the most recent design calls for four floors. The first floor will have two commercial spaces of 1,380 square feet each, with 14 foot ceilings. The second and third floors consist of two units on each level with 150 square ft. private decks for each unit. The top, fourth floor, will consist of one penthouse unit with 2200 square feet indoors and four balconies, facing in different directions and including a total of 700 square feet. This unit also has fourteen foot ceilings and interesting views in every direction. The balconies, as you’ll notice, do not extend from the building.

Block Drawing (Courtesy Forrest Kirkpatrick)

Unit Arrangement Drawing (Courtesy Forrest Kirkpatrick)

I asked Forrest Kirkpatrick of ForK Design, lead architect and designer for the project to comment on the project and he offered an insightful look at the decisions he and the Grimacs made with the design. He said, “The design criteria concern method over style—how do we achieve the greatest result on a small site?  The first step was to maximize parking, placed in the city block’s interior.  This located the building on the Commerce Street lot line, engaging and enhancing the streetscape.  Second was to place the vertical circulation core in the center of the main facade, allowing the building to be zoned into easily accessed units.
“The design is conceptualized as a limestone block; where it is cut into for private space realizes a warmer tone.  This creates covered entries at the street level and porches above, eliminating extended balconies.  By balancing the programmatic needs of the development with the realities of downtown living, energy concerns, zoning ordinances, and building codes, we have arrived at a building design that is dense and carefully arranged; basically a Rubik’s Cube.
“This infill project is a contemporary take on downtown development.  The 0.15 acre site is maximized by building to the lot lines on three sides; parking is on the back half of the lot.  To this end, the program items are densely arranged.  The architecture is a response to our local climate: covered porches, sun shading, sloped roof, expansive operable windows for natural light, fiber cement rainscreen siding, spacious sidewalks, incorporated landscape on the facade and porches, etc.  In addition to the rainscreen and overhangs, the roof and siding are reflective surfaces to keep the building cool.”

Rendering of the Front View of the Building from Commerce, 107 Commerce (Courtesy of Forrest Kirkpatrick)

To those ends, the building compliments the streetscape begun with Marble Alley Lofts. The wide sidewalks lead to the Downtown Dog Park and through to the Old City via a quieter route than Summit Hill. Entrances to the units, the commercial spaces and the parking are off Commerce Street. It’s a quieter part of the city, yet it’s in the centrally located to the Old City and Gay Street. Melinda also added that the spaces are flexible and, for example, if a commercial client wanted two floors, there could be adjustments to the design to meet those needs.
The units are available for pre-sale and early buyers may have input on finishes. The commercial space will be leased. Mallia Engineering will handle the structural engineering and bids are out for construction. MPC has approved the design. If you are interested in the commercial space or a residential unit, text or call Melinda at (865)356-4178.


  1. Would a mini-supermarket (not a “mini-mart” per se) be a good idea? Do the kids in Marble Alley actually cook their own meals? Seems to me if that’s true, it would make a killing, at least on beer sales! 🙂 When I was in college out West in the early ’80s, I remember having to ride my bike to the Safeway a couple blocks away (didn’t have a car). I know you can catch a free trolley to the double-decker Wal-Mart and there are a few grocery-type, smallish stores Downtown, but a full-fledged supermarket would be huge, even if it was a chain like Fresh Market or Whole Foods.

    • ….or even Aldi, which has a smaller footprint, and seems to be in expansion mode (opening new locations frequently). Just sayin’.

  2. Becky Jackson says

    Since the Grimacs are involved in this, it will be first-class.

  3. PS I applaud exciting design like this! When we build new, build great!

  4. Please don’t suggest chain retail for downtown. What makes downtown Knoxville unique and wonderful is our great local retail and restaurants: Bliss, Rala, Emelia, Stock & Barrel, Coolato Gelato, Suttree’s, Nama. I shop and eat at those and have never purchased a thing from Urban Outfitters or eaten at Lennie’s or whatever has replaced it.

    • I will agree that an abundance of chains is a bad thing. But a few chains scattered far and wide actually can help greatly. Once urban outfitters came to downtown, it helped bring a lot more younger people, and they had to walk past all our wonderful local stores (and in many cases, shop there) to get to it, and many people I know were even more impressed with stores such as bliss, etc. And don’t get me started on how wonderful ALL our local restaurants downtown are. But a few chains here and there will bring people from out of the area to shop there, as well as our local stores they may not have known about. Besides, if even Chattanooga is getting an H&M we should have one too, there’s no space in our mall, and every single clothing store downtown EXCEPT the chains such as urban outfitters and earthbound only carry women’s clothes. Local men’s stores don’t seem to last (RIP Swagger 🙁 )

      • I agree in a perfect world downtown would have a lot more local stores but we just don’t seem to be able to support them. At least when it comes to men’s clothing. I would very much welcome a H&M or Zara. I feel like if we get a few more chains like these downtown it will draw enough people down there to support more local stores. Win win situation.

      • Oren Yarbrough says

        I agree with Jeremy. H&M is considered a “Destination Store” that can pretty much go in any location it desires and people will make an effort to go there to shop. I worked on a concept design for a mixed use project a few years back for the North Gulch in Nashville and the developer was in talks to bring an H&M downtown for part of the project. (It ultimately was bought buy a different developer and changes designs). While I know Knoxville is by no means Nashville I do think it is important to have variety in our downtown. I think a Walgreens, Gorcery Store, and a destination anchor clothing store would benefit Downtown a whole lot. I think the important thing is to locate these projects on the periphery of downtown to act as a node that connects downtown to say the Old City or Happy Holler or the South Riverfront. I could easily see the H&M being in part of the Riverfront development going on right now. Having a grocery store in one of those large vacant storefronts near Central and N. Broadway would be perfect to draw more development in that area. We should not be anti-large store for our downtown…many of the larger buildings along Gay Street were once massive department stores and other retail.

      • I agree with Jeremy as well. Urban Outfitters is in downtown Asheville and Anthropologie opened a store in downtown Greenville, SC and both those downtowns have retained their local character.

  5. It’s great to see parking lots become buildings. Regas, the new place with the giant hole dug on Central in the Old City, and this set a high standard for new construction mixed-use development downtown.

  6. On another note, do you have any idea when construction is going to start on marble alley phase 2?

  7. Way to go Kevin & Melinda!

  8. The bottom floor looks like a great location for an H&M. I hear they’ve been looking for a space around Knoxville.

    • Fast Fashion says

      That would be great. Where did you hear that ?

      • My friend who is a manager at the mall. A couple years back she said she heard talks of them putting one in by sears where Deb used to be, but the mall leased it to Rue 21 instead *gags*. Apparently they said they were either looking downtown or the mall. So they’ve been looking for a while. However this is just Just he said she said stuff, so don’t take it as fact.

  9. Wow very cool sleek and modern design. I am overly impressed. What an exciting time for downtown Knoxville. ????????????

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.