State Street Garage Set to Be Expanded

Finishing Touches to the Re-vamped State Street Garage, Knoxville, September 2013

It was in last year’s city budget and it’s been a point of concern for a number of downtown residents who wonder about the impact on parking of the various hotel developments and the continuing growth in residential units. The city came before the downtown design review board this past week with details about the pending work.

The proposal includes adding two floors to the existing garage structure. When the garage was expanded in 2013, several improvements were made, including a covered pedestrian bridge from the garage to the Gay Street level of downtown. An elevator was added and extended to an additional floor of the garage. An outdoor escalator was removed and the project added about 260 parking spaces.

Most importantly for the current situation, the $6.1 million 2013 project also included funds for altering the supports for the garage to allow it to be expanded well beyond the scope of that project. The additional floors now set for construction are well within the capacity of the supporting structures and will not require expense required to support the expansion.

Pedestrian Bridge to Re-vamped State Street Garage, Knoxville, September 2013

It’s a significant increase in capacity for the garage which went from just over 700 spaces pre-2013 to over 1,000 spaces after the previous project. This $9 million dollar project will add two floors, whereas the previous expansion included only one floor. The new capacity of the garage should be around 1,600 spaces, with 580 of them included in this project.

Also included in the current plans, extensions of the elevator and stairwells, but also installation of an additional elevator tower near the Central and Union intersection. Other changes include canopies over the entrances and – importantly – a straight, rather than angled entrance from State Street. This serves the purpose of making the entrance safer for pedestrians (turning vehicles will a have 90-degree angle to navigate), but will also allow entrance from two directions should State Street be made two-way on that block.

The new construction will match the old construction in materials and design and will bring the height of the garage to five stories on State Street and eight stories on Central Street. The building will also become ADA compliant, thanks to new ADA crossings at the entrances. Where the front of the garage once had annual art installations, the city’s Public Arts Committee has committed funds to a permanent sculpture installation at the site. An artist will be (and may have already been) selected to produce a seven-foot sculpture for the spot.

Newly added Top Floor of the State Street Garage, Knoxville, September 2013

Marleen Davis, a member of the Downtown Design Review Board pointed out that the massive wall created on the north side of the garage by this expansion needs something to bring interest to the pedestrian experience. Rick Emmett, Downtown Manager with the city indicated the city is open to that possibility, but it didn’t sound as if firm plans are in place.

The timeline for the project calls for some work to begin next month, with the most visible work commencing in November and running through early March, starting along Central. During this period, road closures around the garage will begin, but access to the garage will be maintained. Single lanes on State and Central will be re-opened after initial closures. State Street will likely not be impacted until the new year.

Hopes are to finish the project by next June. As was the case in 2013, a blog will be maintained to keep the public up-to-date regarding progress on the project. The new spaces, the blog notes, come in addition to the 5,000 spaces, “currently available in city-owned parking garages, alone.”

One of the most intriguing features of the two expansions is the dangling possibility of additional growth. According to the blog:

The added half deck will be designed for a possible future build-out and sale of air rights; it will be compatible for either additional parking spaces or private-sector construction of up to four floors of office/condominium space.

At the height it will have attained after this project, the views from condos would be pretty compelling and demand would certainly support additional condo construction. That said, downtown has not expanded its office stock in the last decade or more and we may be approaching a time that will be necessary. It will be interesting to see if a developer steps up who has a vision for additional floors or if the city ultimately continues adding floors for parking.


  1. Leland Wykoff says

    Here is a very interesting article concerning incentives between Disney and Anaheim. Disney has taken and taken. Growth would have happened even had incentives not been offered:

    • This article about the garage expansion has *nothing* to do with tax incentives – I don’t see any connection between this article and development in Knoxville. But I’ll bite. The corporate juggernaut that is Disney is way different than any other company or tax deal that Knoxville has seen. I’ll leave it at that, and hope you might not see every. single. article. reporting on development in Knoxville as an invitation to get back on your anti-public-private development soap box.

  2. It would be nice if the upgrade included a grab handle for people climbing the wall next to the 1st floor elevator rather than go up two flights of stairs and then down one to get to the sidewalk. A rubber mat for the folks jumping down would be nice too. Or, and this is just crazy talk, a short staircase.

    • Downtown Worker says

      Hah! I thought I was the only one. ONE OF US! ONE OF US!
      Seriously though, poor planning like this is why there’s such a thing as desire paths. Humans naturally want to walk directly to their destination.

    • Jimmy Ryan says

      I second this request! Have always thought a staircase would be logical there as well.

  3. Rick Emmett says

    Please allow me to clarify a few points here.
    First the new sculpture should arrive and be installed the week of August 27 and it is a thirty foot tall piece selected after an RFP from the Public Arts Committee. The sheer walls have a lot of potential for some sort of art display or lighting as does the new elevator to be constructed at Union and Central. Lighting here could be quite dramatic and we are hoping to add some features eventually through various funding sources. We have had a lot of discussion about this and hope to have some estimates for various ideas soon. The new elevator will allow folks to walk from Gay Street across the pedestrian bridge and then through the garage on the north end to the new elevator which will take someone all the way down to Central Street fir easier access to the Dog Park and the Old City among other destinations.

    The City has leased the space to be developed for Marble Alley Phase 2 for staging and parking for our garage expansion. The PILOT for this proposed project was with Knox County by the way.

    Lastly, part of the construction in this phase is to further reinforce the foundation in anticipation of offering an RFP someday for the four extra levels but we also now will have the ability to offer the possibility of two more levels of parking to support that development for a total of six levels. The area proposed for air rights is basically the first one fourth of the garage from State Street. Since the State Street Garage is set back a ways from State Street we think a proposer some day may also have the ability to propose some development at ground level along State Street, ‘skinning the garage’ in effect.

    • Thank you for the valuable information! I never thought of anything being able to be built above the garage! And also good to know that parking lot won’t be a surface lot forever.

  4. Leland Wykoff says

    Additional parking at State Street Garage likely will be parceled out to assist some developer with parking demand. Much like the last additional spots were given to hotel developers at a price *far below market value*.

    If residential housing or offices are later built upon the air rights above the garage be mindful Knoxville will likely give away valuable parking to this developer well below the cost of building that parking. This would be a very bad use of the parking.

    While developers keep getting sweetheart deals on downtown parking the public is asked to pay more, more often, in more locations. This formula has it exactly backward. The developers should pay the full freight of parking, not the taxpayers.

    Questions concerning phase II of Marble Alley deserve good full answers. Where is the development for which the City offered and paid incentives?

    • Leland do you ever have anything positive to say?

      • No, he’s a troll. Pure and simple. He’s against investment downtown, he’s against investment in rural areas, he’s against collaborative projects, he’s against solo projects, he’s against parking lots, he’s mad that there’s not enough parking, etc. He’s a contrarian.

        • I am positive our tax dollars can be better and more effectively used than on apparently never-ending developer give-a ways.

          I am positive parking should be more available to visitors downtown, at lower fees.

          I am positive the high churn rates of restaurants downtown is a sign of a less healthy and thriving hospitality business environment than the powers that be would have you believe.

          I am positive great strides and improvements have been made downtown. Just as I am positive continued public ‘investment’ is no longer necessary–the pump has been primed–private investment should now rule the day.

          I was positive a Convention Center would be a huge drag on City finances and resources and would result in huge operating and capital defects. Time has proven this to be the case.

          I am positive when citizens are engaged and critically review, and shape public funded projects, we achieve better outcomes than when rent seeking developers run the show out out of City Hall.

          I am also positive “build it and they will come” is a line out of a fictional film story which has captured a romantic attachment by many well meaning but uninformed folks. BIATWC is not good public policy. It is a feel good fantasy born of Hollywood and promoted by unscrupulous developers.

          Thanks for asking James. Thank you Rick Emmett for responding to questions and filling in some missing facts.

          It is an intreaguing topic for serious minded folks.

  5. Is there still potential for residences above this expansion?

  6. The current home of Marble Alley was used as a staging area during the 2013 expansion of the State Street garage. Perhaps the upcoming expansion is playing a role in the phase 2 delay.

  7. Yuck.

    • It keeps the same footprint as before and still provides the ability to add residential or commercial space above it. “Yuck” doesn’t seem to make sense.

  8. Nicole Lynch says

    Couldn’t be happier to hear that this garage is getting more spaces. It’ll definitely help to have that space during events or on weekends when everyone is downtown.

  9. I guess this is a good thing, at least the possibility of some residential development above the 8 floors of parking. But, State Street is currently another parking lot/garage desert except for Marble Alley (what happened to Phase 2?). This just adds more height to what are already imposing walls of concrete all along the street. Unlike many cities that many of us love, we build garages up, not down, thereby consigning the spaces for generations to be car warehouses.

    • I agree with this, however it is too late to make this anything more than a garage since they’re only expanding it. Parts of downtown will need more parking in the future (even though parking is abundant currently, despite what people from far west suburbia think when they can’t park in the Market Square Garage.) For instance, I think it would be a fantastic idea to build a multi-level garage across from White Lily Flats with the first floor being retail space, the next couple floors for residential parking only due to the increase of housing going up in the area, and the next few floors for public parking.

      Also yes. Seriously wondering when Marble Alley Phase 2 will pop up since they were approved for the tax package years ago.

    • Randy. Your comment about building down and not up got me digging (no pun intended). I found this quote on a design group’s website explaining factors effecting the cost of a parking space.

      “ Parking below-grade – Parking below-grade is much more expensive than parking above-grade. A parking structure that is five levels above-grade may cost, say, $50 per square foot. If this same structure is depressed one level into the ground, the cost can increase approximately 15% to $57.50 per square foot. If you take that same structure and put two levels below ground, the cost increases even more because of the impacts of having to dig deeper. This cost would then be around 45% higher than the original cost or approximately $72 per square foot.”

      I was surprised how much the cost per space would skyrocket.

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