Nineteen Story Apartment Building Planned for North Waterfront

3-D View of The T at Riverfront from an aerial perspective looking North
3-D View of The T at Riverfront from an aerial perspective looking North

Word has been circulating for quite a while that a major development was planned for the north waterfront, just to the east (by twenty feet) of the Henley Bridge. I first mentioned the rumors and named the company, California-based Cogent Bay, Inc (this link was not working when I linked, but appears to be the correct address) over a year ago. They have teamed with Atlanta-based architects Gamble and Gamble and local architects (and architects of record), DIA, and Knoxville-based Blaine Construction to bring the project to fruition. Rick Blackburn of the Blackburn Group is acting as project coordinator.

The group first presented at a workshop with the Downtown Design Review Board in October of last year and purchased the land in question to proceed with the project at the same time. The site involved fronts Hill Avenue at the corner of Hill and Locust and proceeds down the bluff to Front Street and over to the edge of the Henley Bridge. They’ve subsequently met with various city entities and utilities honing the plan, the current version of which was presented in a workshop yesterday to the Downtown Design Review Board.

Vacant Land on Front Avenue, Knoxville, February 2017

Currently named “The T at Riverfront,” the project is in the schematic design phase, and it’s important to understand that details of the project may change from what is presented here, though the design is quickly approaching its final form. And the striking characteristic of the current form is that it is large. Whereas original plans called for 228 units, the current plan calls for 287 apartments in a nineteen floor development, with two retail spaces.

The building, which will have units facing the river and mountains and units facing downtown, will include 280,000 to 290,000 square feet of residential space. Also included will be about 90,000 square feet for amenities and necessities such as a pool, clubhouse, fitness center, study area, circulation, mechanical and trash. About 7,000 square feet will be devoted to retail and another 123,000 square feet to parking (229 parking spaces internal to the building).

3-D View of The T at Riverfront from the Perspective of the Henley Bridge
3-D View of The T at Riverfront over the Henley Bridge

The residential spaces, totaling 287 units, will include eighty-eight one bedroom homes, ninety-three two bedroom homes, thirty-two three bedroom homes and seventy-four four bedroom apartments.

Plans also call for landscape, lighting and sidewalk improvements along Hill, Locust and Front Streets. Locust will remain one-way and Front will become a one-way street, while Hill will continue to be two-way. The company has also purchased a strip of land on the other side of the Henley Bridge, presumably for purposes of re-configuring automotive access from Front to Henley, which will have to flow under the bridge. Garage entrances and exits will be found both on Hill and Front Streets.

While the building will be nineteen stories tall, it begins well below the grade of most of downtown, so it will not appear across the skyline to be quite as tall as its full height. Additionally, not all of the building is nineteen stories tall, with the end closest to Henley Street being shorter. At downtown’s grade, represented by Hill Avenue, it will be fourteen stories tall, making it approximately the height of the Bank of America Building on that end of downtown.

3-D View of The T at Riverfront from an aerial perspective looking North

The facade of the building is currently set to be brick, metal paneling and stucco. The building is designed to avoid sheer walls, with the mass reducing as it increases in height. The tallest portion is on the eastern side, the shortest beside the Henley Bridge. Balconies are also to be included throughout, giving the external appearance more interest.

The retail portion of the project is slated to fill two corners of the building. At the corner of Hill and Locust, 4,000 square feet of space on two floors will be available and the developers envision a restaurant in that location. In preparation for that possibility, the space will have built-in grease interceptors and venting for industrial hoods. Down the hill at the corner of Locust and Front, about 3,000 square feet of retail space will be available.

3-D View of The T at Riverfront from an aerial perspective over the Henley Bridge
3-D View of The T at Riverfront from an aerial perspective looking South

Moreso than in the previous version which, though large, was smaller than the current version, the building appears to target UT students, from the name to the large number of four bedroom units and the presence of “study areas. The committee questioned whether the amount of current and recently constructed student housing had been considered and the response was that a study had been performed to assess potential demand.

References were made to the idea that students would not all bring cars to school, but questions were raised about the ratio of parking spaces to apartments. Cars, in general, seemed to be the focus of most of the concern, with traffic patterns potentially altered significantly on Hill, in Maplehurst and on that end of Henley. City traffic engineering discussions are ongoing.

Aerial 3-D View of The T at Riverfront Including Surrounding Blocks

An issue for the current residences and buildings, as well as pedestrians on Hill Street is that of sight lines. Currently strolling down the street offers views of the river and those will be lost with the current design. When asked, lead architect Faris Eid basically said that it reflects an urban reality: Views change as building development progresses. It was noted that this particular project will result in a harsh shift for the owners and pedestrians on Hill from a river view to a view of the backside of the new building.

The owners, developers and architects will now take the input given and continue to work on their design and consult with various city departments. The design could change significantly or remain very much like what is shown here. The group will return to the Downtown Design Review Board when they feel ready to submit a final proposal. Rick Blackburn told me it is too early to project a start or finish date for the project.