Kress Building Purchased, Wild Wing Cafe Back, More Plans Considered

Kress Building, 417 South Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2018
Kress Building, 417 South Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2018

It’s a crazy arc for a story, an almost unbelievable ending to a tale that was thought to be concluded. In 2014, Kress, LLC, a group including Brant Enderle of Henry and Wallace (etc.), purchased the Kress Building at 417 South Gay Street for $1.35 million. Under normal circumstances, a purchase of a distinguished building in the heart of rapidly developing district would produce an equally rapid redevelopment. Of course, that didn’t happen.

In January 2015, Bullman’s Gym announced plans to open in the basement of the building. In September 2015, Wild Wing Cafe was getting plans approved for their restaurant on the ground floor. It looked like a legitimate development was underway. And then it wasn’t. By spring of 2016, Bullman’s Gym pulled out. The owner of Wild Wing Cafe filed a lawsuit against the owners of the building over breach of contract for not completing work that had been paid for. The suit was settled, Wild Wing Cafe withdrew and the building languished.

To be fair, some work was completed in the subsequent two years. On the second floor, premium office space was constructed – though not finished. The facade was returned to its original appearance and is now more attractive than it has been in a generation or more. An elevator was added, at last. But nothing was finished and no one moved in.

Kress Building, Wild Wing Cafe Original Plans, 417 S. Gay, Knoxville, September 2015
View of the Kress Building from Inside the JC Penney Building, 412 – 416 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2015

That all changed recently, when McFarland Management closed on a purchase of the building for $3.825 million. Dave McFarland tells me he’d kept his eye on the building and maintained contact with a person associated with the group. He continued to feel that was the best place to open another Wild Wing Cafe location, but knew from the previous experience that he wanted to own the building. Eventually, it became clear it might be for sale and after lengthy negotiations, he made the purchase at the end of September. It’s the second major Enderle and associates owned building that has been sold in the last twelve months. (See the other, here.)

Somewhat philosophically, Mr. McFarland notes that he can now use many of the plans he’d paid to have drawn two-and-a-half years ago. He says the basic plan will remain the same, though there have been changes, such as no mezzanine offices because he can now place them elsewhere. “I’m excited to get started on Wild Wing Cafe on the first floor. I hope to get that started the first quarter of next year and hope to have it finished by the end of the second quarter.”

Kress Building, 417 South Gay Street, Knoxville, October 2018

There are also other intriguing possibilities offered by the building. The basement will, once again, be available for lease by an interested business. He noted that some remediation has to be done both in the basement and on the roof. Also, a small, 800 to 1000 square foot retail space will likely be available on the north side of the building, fronting Gay Street.

As stated, the second floor is premium office space, which he said will remain. He’s considering taking an office there. The third floor, however, is undeveloped and he, with the help of Johnson Architecture, is considering a range of possibilities, including condos or offices. He’s thinking of making the rooftop an event space or rooftop bar with a catering kitchen, though he says it would be a separate concept from the Wild Wing Cafe. The rooftop, he says, is an excellent space.

“I’m so excited to be here. I’ve been in Knoxville for eleven years and consider it home.”