Knoxville High Independent Living Opens Its Doors

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

It’s been a long road, one that Rick Dover acknowledges has sometimes been frustrating, but he also says it’s what he enjoys most – making the improbable happen despite the obstacles. I first wrote about Knoxville High School nearly five years ago when his proposal for redevelopment of Knoxville High School was selected by the city and he announced intentions to make the building into apartments for older residents.

It may be a situation in which if he’d known before he started how difficult it would prove to be he might not have done it. Then again, he had a conversation years ago with Kristopher Kendrick who told him that he felt Knoxville High School was the finest building ever built in Knoxville, saying, “there is no building in Knoxville with greater provenance.” Kristopher knew he wouldn’t get to redevelop the building, but he felt someone would.

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Exterior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

The conversation is one reason the renovation and redevelopment has been so important to Rick. He told me, “I’ve been doing this for thirty-nine years and I’ve never done a project I am more proud of.” He said that some of the delays in opening involved getting parts of the project “to about 90% and then we’d see something we could do better.”

He pointed out that the fact the building was remarkably intact was both a blessing and a challenge in the renovation. Incorporating modern technology like HVAC, sprinklers, wifi and more without diminishing the historical character was difficult. They preserved the pressed ceilings, all doors and doorways, transoms and stairwells. Keeping the state and national historic organizations happy, meeting local codes and making the project financially viable is the trick and he loves the challenge.

Courtyard Entryway to Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Courtyard Entryway to Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Courtyard Entryway to Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Courtyard Entryway to Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Billiards Room, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Billiards Room, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

He’s completed award winning projects such as the Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge, Oakwood School and, very recently, the Farragut Hyatt Place Hotel on Gay Street. He says the projects are, “like your children and you aren’t supposed to have favorites,” but this one, he says, has him, “blown away. Just look at the hand-carved hand rails,” which they had to repeatedly strip to peel away the layers of paint to get to the original wood. “It’s 108 years old and this building sings.”

Many decisions along the way resulted in lengthy efforts that delayed the project. The windows proved the most difficult. He and architects D.K. and Kendel Levy looked exhaustively at all available possibilities of energy efficient, historically accurate window replacements for the white oak windows and found none. The detailing just wasn’t right.

Hallway, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Hallway, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Hallway, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Hallway, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Lounge and Bar Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Lounge and Bar Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Lounge and Bar Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Lounge and Bar Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Ultimately, they decided to reuse every window which was still intact. They were all removed from the building, taken to another location and “dipped and stripped.” The glass panes were removed and re-glazed. The building has 537 windows and most have at least 12 panes. They also attempted to preserve all plaster in the windows. The windows took a year-and-a-half while one man devoted himself for a year to nothing but window plaster repair.

Under the direction of project manager Shay Ramsey, while directing those efforts, a furniture refinishing crew worked the building to restore book cases, railings, stairwells and more. A company in Maine was employed to build replicas of balusters to replace those that had been lost over the last century. “You start a dance with a building and you don’t know where it will end. I refuse to be disappointed with the finished product.

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Kitchen and Dining Area, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

There are actually five different buildings in the complex. One was originally a fire hall. He’s very proud that the original doorways are all in place and none have been added, meaning, as former students traverse the hallways, the building is just as they remember it when it closed in 1951. I met one such woman who was absolutely glowing at what she was seeing.

The building has now been divided into 80 apartments with about 60 ready for residents. About 80% are one bedroom and the rest are split between studio and two bedroom units. The apartments are simple and attractive, featuring massive windows and great light and all are equipped with a full kitchen and washer/dryer unit. It’s the light that makes the entire building feel like such a happy place. The units are being marketed as “55 and up,” but that’s somewhat flexible.

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

While it is in no respect a medical facility or care facility, there are many amenities which have appeal for older residents. Staff and security are on-site twenty-four hours a day and all rooms have interior entries and emergency call buttons. An Events Director will plan activities of different sorts both inside the building and as excursions. An Executive Chef has been hired and the kitchen staff will deliver three meals a day – included in the rent.

What is included in the rent – and the terms of the rent – are two of the things that make this a unique place to live. There are no leases. Residents take a room on a monthly basis and may stay as long as they like. Rent ranges from $1695 per month for the smallest studio apartment up to $3895 per month for the largest two-bedroom unit. Rent, however, isn’t simply for the unit. It includes those three meals a day, utilities, wifi, weekly apartment cleaning, fitness facility, valet parking, transportation to appointments or other destinations and planned activities.

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Apartment Interior, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Saying this type facility is usually only found in larger markets, Dover says it will be an active and safe place to live, with a great staff. He estimates there will be 30 full-time jobs there when it is fully staffed. Management is provided by Senior Solutions Management Group with Lavonda Cantrell serving as Executive Director.

Rick said he wants people to know he is excited and grateful for the opportunity and that it is open to the public. He encouraged people who may be interested for themselves or who are simply curious to schedule a tour and come take a look. He said you won’t find a hard-sell when you get there, simply people who are proud to show a building – and a way of life – that they think are very appealing. You’ll also find great museum pieces of Knoxville High School history on every hallway.

Small Courtyard, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Small Courtyard, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Stairwell, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Stairwell, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

View Out Front Door, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

View Out Front Door, Knoxville High Independent Living, Knoxville, April 2018

Residents will begin moving in next week and a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting is set for next Tuesday at 10:00 AM, which would be a fine time to come and take a look. You’ll find more information here and here and you can book a tour or get more information by calling 865-210-5544. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Ed. Notes: I will post additional photographs on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page sometime later. Also, please join me at 10 AM Sunday morning on WUTK, 90.3 FM (http://www.wutkradio.com) when my guests will be Sara and/or Sean Martin discussing the upcoming Fourth and Gill Home Tour (and maybe that little HGTV project they worked on).

Comments

  1. We are looking forward to our Ribbon Cutting Ceremony tomorrow, April 24th at 10am. The public is welcome and we would love to show you around! Please see the Facebook Event Page Here: https://www.facebook.com/events/571311556578313/

  2. Well, I knew this would be an interesting read.

  3. This is an amazing renovation. I can’t wait to see it in person. Congratulations to everyone involved. Now that this splendid restoration has been finished for those on the high end of the rental scale, what can we do for the majority of folks that can’t afford $3000 per month, even with meals included? Any plans for developing some of the older structures left downtown at a lower price point?

    • Chris Eaker says:

      Unfortunately, I think the price of real estate is too high for anything to be developed in the lower price range downtown. Developers have to make the numbers work, and when the price of the dilapidated building is high to begin with, the end result is commensurately high.

  4. We’re really looking forward to having the Knoxville High School on this year’s home tour!

    • On behalf of the Knoxville High team, we are excited to be part of the event! We are looking forward to the community seeing Knoxville High! Please come by our ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday the 24th if you are in the area!

  5. I took the tour last July during the construction phase I was really impressed by the width of the hallways. Looking at the current photos they have really taken advantage to create a communal space outside each apartment. That is something that would probably never be replicated in new construction. Having a seat in the hall would be like sitting on the porch.

  6. This project is so “awesome”, I donot live in the greater knoxville area and I must say I am very jealous of this facility. Congradulations on a job exceedenly well done. The Lord will guide you through this endevor.

    • Thank you for your kind words. On behalf of the Knoxville High team, we are thrilled with the finished product! Rick Dover and his team have done a phenomenal job with preserving and restoring Knoxville High! Please come visit when you are in the area!

  7. Amazing work, so much better than I could have possibly imagined!

    I must be missing something, when did 55 become ancient? If anything I think it would possibly promote a more solid economic base that could potentially help out the retail scene downtown.

  8. ANITA ARMES says:

    Where did we go wrong, what happened with contractors. This building is just so awesome to look at. Generations before us took so much pride in their work, I am happy to see someone take on this project, with such enthusiasm. Awesome idea also!

  9. This is phenomenal and based on a couple of conversations I had with Rick during the construction process he truly treated this project like his child. The level of care taken into the restoration and repurposing of this building cannot be overstated. I am going to try and schedule a tour soon just so I can go take a look. Congrats to him on another exceptional adaptive re-use of an otherwise vacant historic Knoxville landmark. It is thanks to developers like Dover and Dewhirst that Knoxville has such a large volume of occupied historic structures to enjoy here in the city. Thanks for sharing Alan!

  10. Chris Eaker says:

    Honestly, I wish there were places like this for all ages that included so many amenities in the rent, including chef-prepared meals! I have about had it up to here with owning my own home. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

    • At Knoxville High it is truly hassle free living at it’s best. Knoxville High will host an environment that you can come and go as you please but yet don’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, and the worries of maintaining a home!

  11. The Modern Gal says:

    Well done, Mr. Dover. I admire your dedication to preservation, particularly as I’m sure it came at a high cost and clearly through a lot of added effort.

  12. Chris Eaker says:

    This is gorgeous! When I was younger and lived in Atlanta, I was a cheauffer for an upscale facility like this called Lenbrook Square. This facility reminds me alot of that. The residents will truly enjoy it. As for commenter “E” above, do you think senior citizens don’t like breweries and restaurants? I think this area could use some people to bend the average age upwards a bit.

  13. I wanna be 55.

  14. Steven M. Goodpaster, MAI, MRE says:

    Extraordinary! What an exceptional accomplishment!

  15. Amazing place for seniors – it’s all about socialization and peers. I know they will do well the restaurant style dining vs buffet is a step above other communities — Dover has done a phenomenal job maintaining the character of the building while making it modern.

  16. Sabrina Straub says:

    Gorgeous renovation!

  17. Donna Fielden says:

    The Dovers have done another spectacular job. This grand old building was well worth saving.

  18. While it looks nice I think a retirement home is a waste for a amazing building in an up and coming neighborhood with breweries and restaurants. But maybe these will be occupied by some crazy senior citizens….

    • Honestly I find this comment ignorant. Age diversity is an important factor in a successful city. Furthermore, really? The urban revitalization and brewery scene in the US was started by people who are now 55+.

    • Those bad ass baby boomers need somewhere to live! lol They deserve something awesome.

      • I don’t think “bad ass” and “baby boomers” should ever be used in the same sentence. Ever. But at the same time I’m glad they have a nice option to live in once they decide to finally retire, stop screwing up the economy, and let the rest of us have their jobs. Alan, I don’t know your exact age so no offense to you. If you are a baby boomer you are pretty bad ass. 🙂

    • The Modern Gal says:

      I disagree with the notion that it’s a waste. I live in the neighborhood and enjoy the breweries and restaurants, but I also love the notion that I have a nearby place for my parents when the time comes for them to downsize.

      • Ben Wilburn says:

        So people 55 and up don’t like beer and restaurants? This place is going to be great for the neighborhood and they did a remarkable jobs from the looks of it.

      • Agree with Modern Gal. I want my parents to move here pronto and the local breweries and attractions would not be lost on them in their late 60’s. But maybe just because I want to live here too.

    • don’t trust anyone under 30

  19. Tim Lucas says:

    Wow – what a beautiful job!! I’m so glad to see this gorgeous building get a new lease on life.

Speak Your Mind

*

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