2209 North Central Street, Knoxville, September 2017
Less than a month ago I wrote about a building at 2209 North Central and, perhaps, the beginning of residents and businesses along Central Street taking small steps to organize and preserve the best elements along the route. With the possibility of ultimately determining a design overlay to be applied to the corridor, it was the more pressing issue that prompted the attention and the article.
The building at 2209 North Central Street dates to the 1940s and, in its original and most celebrated form, housed Charlie’s Pie Shop. It was really more of a large-scale bakery and was much loved for its run. The building ultimately became home to an outpost of Habitat for Humanity before they left it empty some years ago.
The issue was triggered last month when plans became public for a sale of the building to Dollar General Store for a location for one of their stores. The community called a meeting to discuss the situation and they were joined by local contractors Schaad Brown whose clients include Dollar General. They listened and discussed plans for the site, which included demolition of the current building.
Knox Heritage and others spoke for the preservation of the building. Jack Neely wrote an article about its history and an online petition was begun to spare the building from demolition. While continuing to listen and explore options, Dollar General continued to maintain its plans had not changed. Until late last week.
An announcement was made on Friday that Dollar General had signed away their option to purchase the property and that they will continue to search for an alternative location. An agreement was reached that SMJT, LLC would be given contractual rights to purchase the property. While the sale has not closed, it should do so in coming months and the building would then be owned by the same group that owns other properties along or near Central, including the soon-to-open Elkmont Exchange.
I spoke to Joe Fox, a member of the LLC, who said the building will definitely be preserved and they hope to begin clearing out the inside as soon as they close on the building. There will be some interior demolition which he hopes will be underway by the end of the year.
Regarding Schaad Brown, he says they have been very easy to work with as they have pursued the wishes of their client. Dollar General agreed to release their rights to the building in exchange for payment from SMJT for the due diligence work they had completed, such as surveys, phase I and II environmental studies and architectural fees. It was a win for both groups.
Joe also pointed out that the pie factory site was an expensive one on which to develop a Dollar General, as their building would only have filled about 9,000 square feet of the 45,000 square foot site. For the SMJT group, the building will be used, utilizing more of the site and removing the demolition and removal costs, which makes it less expensive for them. Dollar General will likely pursue a smaller site.
While saying the group is very excited about owning and developing the building, Mr. Fox also indicated the group has some specific plans in mind which, he feels, would be very exciting and good for the community. They aren’t ready, just yet, to release details, but look for those here in coming months.