New Downtown Building Offered for Best Use

621 Lamar Street, Knoxville, November 2018

Last week I got a message that a person I did not know had purchased a downtown building I’d never noticed and I was asked if I’d be interested in taking a look. We made arrangements to meet at 621 Lamar Street. For reference, this is just behind Knoxville High Independent Living, and within sight of Crafty Bastard and The Press Room. In other words, it’s a great location a couple of blocks from the Old City.

I met Christos Christopoulos of Christopoulos and Kennedy and Christian Kunz, the new owner of the building. Christian is from Lichtenstein. An engineer by training, he worked in Japan and in Buffalo, New York before landing in Knoxville. He worked with Alcoa before forming his own company, PerformCoat. The company makes, “PVD coating equipment that is used to coat cutting tools such as drills and endmills, as well as molds and dies and wear components. The machines are produced in Switzerland. The company operates coating services companies in Michigan, Tennessee, Mexico, Switzerland and India.”

621 Lamar Street, First Floor, Knoxville, November 2018

621 Lamar Street, First Floor, Knoxville, November 2018

621 Lamar Street, First Floor, Knoxville, November 2018

He’s lived in Knoxville for fourteen years. He said with Knoxville’s distance of commutes (hint: not as long as many cities) and affordability, Of the city, he simply says, “It’s paradise.” As for the building, he says, “I’ve rented buildings all over the world and I love this building.”

Christos originally spotted the building when he showed it to a potential purchaser from Nashville. When that deal didn’t go through, Christos called Christian and told him he needed to take a look. He was taken with the building and thought it would be a good purchase – even though he didn’t have a specific use in mind.

621 Lamar Street, Second Floor, Knoxville, November 2018

621 Lamar Street, Second Floor, Knoxville, November 2018

What was so good about the building? It has 12,000 square feet on the main level with steel truss construction and no internal columns which might be an impediment, depending on use. It also has underground parking for thirteen cars and a second story with about 4,000 square feet of usable space. There is also an intriguing rooftop.

Additionally, the building is wired for fiber services  and is fully air-conditioned, with zone units. An elevator extends from the underground parking to the second floor and a loading dock sits on the back of the building. It previously served as a storage and distribution warehouse for Ebco, which has now been moved to the former Toys-r-us location at East Town Mall.

621 Lamar Street, Rooftop View, Knoxville, November 2018

621 Lamar Street, Rooftop View, Knoxville, November 2018

The building’s location also offers the opportunity for a range of businesses, with proximity to downtown and the Interstate being two selling points in that regard.

We talked about a range of possibilities, such as research and development companies, an artist enclave for studios and galleries (like a couple of buildings in Asheville) and an incubator site for restaurant start-ups with a food gallery – or a combination of food and arts. We also talked about the fit for a tech company or as use for maker spaces. Retail is a possibility, but it would have to be the right retail.

621 Lamar Street, Knoxville, November 2018

621 Lamar Street, Knoxville, November 2018

So, what do you think, Knoxville? What would be the best use for this building? What need can it fill for our growing city? What use do you think would be a smashing success? Feel free to leave your ideas as comments below, but if you have a specific idea you personally would like to pursue, contact Christos at 865-659-1291. His company would do the build-out. You may also email Christian at kunzc@ymail.com.

Comments

  1. Trader Joe’s all the way. That would improve my quality of life. I would shop there all of the time.

  2. Tere Stouffer says:

    I’m voting for a grocery store, given its walkable distance from downtown and the Old City.

  3. Please, the neighborhood is already overrun with homeless people and hookers between the bus station, KARM, etc. We do not need to give Knoxville a “Homeless Corridor”. This needs to be put to productive use that adds activity to the surrounding streets. Adding more shelter space in the neighborhood would make this area feel even less safe and would create a ring of homelessness around downtown. Not beneficial to our city or neighborhoods and would hurt all the new businesses that have started in the area. Why not locate shelters in West Knoxville where there is a higher concentration of entry level jobs for these homeless folks supposedly looking to “just get back on their feet”? Downtown is already overburdened and without access to transportation they become stuck in downtown where there aren’t enough entry level jobs (fast food, grocery store,etc) for them.

  4. I moved here this summer and was suprised by the lack of pool options given how hot it gets. I would love a hip non-snooty country club/swim club type place with a pool on top. Kind of like The Wing.

  5. Indoor dog park, bar, boarding. They have them all over the country. They’re lucrative, fit the neighborhood, fill a need (petsafe out west is farrrrr for pet services). We don’t need another X – (something we have a million of – brewery, food store). I do like the market idea above too! Something that contributes to people who have invested in a thriving neighborhood. We need a unique business to pull from gay street and market square as the only destinations save for breweries.

    • Yeah…look at all those food stores downtown. There’s definitely no need…wait, that’s not even close to true. Downtown needs a grocery store. The Kroger on Broadway and the Food City on Western are too far away to be useful for downtown residents.

  6. Multi use space with a Trader Joe’s or another grocery store. I LOVE Three Rivers but it’s prohibitedly expensive for some in the neighborhood and surrounding area. Otherwise, the closest grocery store to downtown is on campus and honestly who wants to brave Cumberland (unless going to Jai Dee) from Aug-May anyways?

  7. Thanks for posting about this building! I had noticed this building was up for sale some time ago. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of it.

    On a related note, I noticed that the Kress Building on S Gay Street is up for auction. Did Henry and Wallace give up on ownership? Do you have information about this?

  8. s.m. dupree says:

    The downtown area needs long and short term commissary kitchen rental space. This space looks like it could service 30 or 40 food trucks with room to prep/cook and plenty of room for individual storage.

    d

  9. The question anyone considering occupying a commercial space wants to know the answer to is $/sqft/month. Without that number, any other discussion is moot. Sorry to add in the practical consideration here. Sincerely, Knoxville businessman who owns a commercial building within a few hundred yards of that Lamar St. address.

  10. It’s already got a place for trucks to back into, I think a grocery store is a good idea.

  11. I think the space is large enough to be broken into multiple uses in order to better secure the future of the building but not relying on one tenant to keep it afloat. I think a small grocery store or market on the ground floor portion could be a good fit considering the large open space. Aside from Three Rivers, there isn’t another grocery store for 1.5 miles in any direction so this could serve the local community and maybe even serve as a more affordable option for the people that can’t afford Three Rivers (no offense, love that place, but it’s $$$). I think an incubator of some sort is also a perfect fit for the 2nd floor and maybe even part of the first floor of the building. The roof could be occupied and used for presentations and events and maybe even rented out considering how nice some of the views looked. Maybe the incubator program could work directly with either Knox Makers or Knox Chamber to bring in new startups.
    I also really LOVE the idea of a LGBT+ Center for youths and youth homeless. Broadway is way too dangerous for homeless teens and KARM for all the good it does isn’t a good fit for young people that are sometimes in their current situation because they are fleeing a religious household. The shelter could be housed on the 2nd floor of the building and use the direct elevator access for better safety off the street. The main floor of the building could then be open to still be a separate retail or office space and help suppplement the use of the 2nd floor as a potential non-profit. An organization like Positvely Living or Tennessee Equality Project could help run the space as part of their normal operations. I imagine housing a non-profit has some tax benefits, but I can’t say for certain. I had a friend attempt to do this years ago in a separate site in Knoxville and he had a lot of red tape to sift through, but maybe things have gotten easier in the last decade.

  12. Angelina Reed says:

    I think something like Ponce City Market in Atlanta would be amazing! It has lots of stalls for different restaurants and stores. It also has entertainment on the roof, so there is something for everyone! As long as parking in the area isn’t an issue, it would be an amazing addition to Knoxville!

    • I second this idea!!

    • 1000% agree with this I think the ponce city market was such a cool addition to that area of Atlanta and something like that in Knoxville would thrive

      • Love this idea as well! There’s some great examples out there – Birmingham has an amazing food hall called the Pizitz; Pittsburgh has a great one called the Smallman Galley, and Denver has one with a rooftop bar called Avanti. I think it would be a great addition to Knoxville.

      • I agree Knoxville leaves a gap when it comes to giving space to pop ups other than food trucks like central filling has. Or for example giving small space to vendors outside of the farmers market, especially when it begins to become cold outside. I think a ton of the hospitality and food community in Knoxville, especially those who don’t have the deep pockets as others, would jump at the chance to be a part of!

    • So in for this! Traditional malls are dying because they don’t offer little, interesting spaces for local small business or embrace the true multiuse spaces people desire. Ponce City market is a destination in it’s own right and that gets attention to up and coming businesses.

  13. JOEL ANSTETT says:

    1st floor….. bowling alley with small coffee shop, snack bar, mini bar. 2nd floor… pool tables, video games, ping pong tables and good old fashion pinball machines and juke boxes.

  14. Leticia Flores says:

    LGBT+ community center, with some temporary shelter capacity to address the many homeless LGBT+ youth on our streets. The space could house various LGBT+ community groups that currently get run out of dedicated people’s garages/borrowed community space.

    • YES YES YES <3

    • I’d rather not attract more homeless-by-choice here

      • Honestly, have to agree here. In the neighborhood and already feeling the strain of having so many consolidated resources near a residential area.

        • This is a different kind of homeless. LGBT youth are not served by KARM because republican Jesus told their parents to kick them out and said they don’t deserve help. They are younger, able bodied, and willing to work. They just need assistance from a ministry that cares about them and wants to get them back on their feet.

          • I agree – but I also invested in the neighborhood as a homeowner. And while I agree these services are incredibly important, we are navigating the waters of having MANY homeless/drug treatment programs in ONE area of town, which also happens to be the only non-suburban/non-subdivision or super rural area in Knoxville. It limits the growth of the city and the neighborhood to only focus on these services and not on businesses that will enrich the neighborhood.

    • No, No, No.

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