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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.