City House Town Homes Within Months of Completion

Rendering of the Front of City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville

It’s been three-and-one-half years since I first wrote about Hatcher-Hill’s plans to build row homes on Vine Avenue at one of the highest points downtown. Since then a lot has changed while very little has changed. In July of 2015, the homes were set to begin construction right away. For various reasons, the start was delayed and the project seemed in jeopardy in subsequent months.

City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville, January 2019

In an update a year ago, ground had been broken and the project was back on track. The design remained consistent with the initial vision and the developers pointed toward a mid-2019 completion date. I spoke to Tim Hill who confirmed the project is on pace to finish on schedule, sometime around June or July. Construction is now “in the dry,” meaning weather will not appreciably impact the schedule going forward.

Michael Davis of Sanders Pace Architecture described them at the time:

Each of the units is approximately 2,900 SF with a two car garage. They will be 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath units. Five (5) of the units feature brownstone style stoops leading up to the main entry. The remaining two (2) units on the west side of the building adapt to the sloping topography by shifting the main entry to the ground floor level. The primary material of the building is brick. Other exterior materials include board form concrete foundation walls, black metal accent panels, and warm wood accents with large aluminum clad operable residential wood windows.

Rendering of the Front of City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville

City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville, January 2019

The description largely holds. Now named City House, the homes actually offer about 3,000 square feet of interior space, a private courtyard and balcony and an additional 500 square feet outdoor space on a rooftop patio, from which 360 views covering Sharpe’s Ridge to House Mountain, the city skyline and the Smoky Mountains to the University of Tennessee will be found. Elevators are optional and would make the homes a more viable option for aging residents.

Rendering of the Living Room and Kitchen of City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville

Floor Plans in a Unit in City House Town Homes, Vine Avenue, Knoxville

Obviously, with that much space and amenities like garages and elevators, these homes will be offered at a premium. Tim Hill says they will likely land around $1,000,000, which is little surprise to anyone watching downtown housing prices. In a current environment in which Gay Street condos are going for over $400 per square foot, these are coming in at around $330, which is expensive, but “expensive” is relative. While they may cost more than most, they are not out of line with current prices.

For anyone interested in looking further, the website has more information. You can, of course, drive or walk by and take a look at 603 Vine Avenue or call (865) 249.8132.


  1. I am really appalled. This Looks like a Prison. Looks like a ” Housing Project as well. Do Knoxvillians really want to live in a dwelling that looks like base camp for jailers ? Wow.

    • Chris Eaker says

      I agree. Very institutional. They had the opportunity to make them look like actual brownstones and they didn’t.

  2. Joyce Richman says

    My first thought was that it looks like a prison. No way would I be interested in buying one of them.

  3. Oh my. The exterior is absolutely horrendous. I don’t see any brownstone and the overall design is cold. Nothing attractive about this at all. I so hope they rethink the exterior before it’s too late. They have an opportunity to create something gorgeous and they are blowing it! If I had $1,000,000 I surely wouldn’t spend it here.

  4. Any updates on a new development over by Schulz brau and the old gray cemetery? This one is out of my price range

  5. Does anyone know how the are addressing the entire back side of the development that these million dollar condos are sitting on? The next time you drive on Jackson Ave, over by Knox Whiskey..look up at the units and tell me that wouldn’t be cause for concern. Hopefully there is no structural threats from all the entire hillside eroding away.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      The entire backside of the hill will have a massive new retaining wall and will be somewhat re-filled once that is finished.

  6. Joe Gallagher says

    Dull costs a mil? Meh.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I think it is 3,000 square feet of living space with an elevator, two car garage and multiple outdoor spaces on top of the tallest downtown hill that costs $1,000,000.

  7. Did Tim Hill say anything about the 30+ foot retaining wall that is collapsing behind the property? I strongly encourage interested buyers to take a look at their future dream home/Million Dollar Investment,from the West Jackson Avenue viewpoint.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Yes. I asked him. The entire hillside will be redone and the retaining wall rebuilt with infill added behind it to build the hill out.

  8. This project was presented to the Downtown Design Review Team with this identical design in July, 2015. It was featured in a blog post on July 13th, 2015 prior to that meeting of the DDRB.

    The comments at the time of Alan’s 2015 posting were uniformly positive. BTW. Sanders Pace is the architect. I think they do very good work, including the Tombras Building. I don’t think they design prisons. I was at the meeting where this project was approved and I don’t recall much if any pushback.

    We do have a set of design guidelines in place. The Downtown Design Review Board references those guidelines. The board and the guidelines were put in place after a long and involved public process which I had the opportunity to lead along with MPC. Prior to their acceptance we had no rules beyond the zoning in place. Many thought that given our property rights culture that adoption of this review board was a step too far.

    Many of the downtown developers were very skeptical that we could keep this board from making the development much more difficult in an already risky environment. I personally addressed City Council to assure them that this was a needed step for our downtown and the rules would be applied in a reasonable, consistent, and fair manner. I don’t know how many of you took part in that process. If you did you recall the difficulty in getting as far as we did and the amount of give and take that was involved on the ground, in real meetings with stakeholders at the table.

    Responsible change takes a lot of heavy lifting If folks think the guidelines need to be strengthened or changed they should look to the rules in place, talk to present or future leaders, and begin a process of revisiting those guidelines with specific suggestions in mind. This process should involve elected officials, the general public, and those who go at risk with any project. These risk elements downtown are much greater than in a greenfield development. Moreover all need to be aware of the property rights supporters in the Tennessee General Assembly. Last year we had to fight off a proposed bill that would have severely crippled the ability of any city in Tennessee to impose any sort of design standards.

    So yes, we all want good design. That is very subjective, as was evident in the recent discussion of the Crozier. In my role at the City I am very open to any discussion of this topic.

  9. $1,000,000.00 to live in a prison building one block removed from the Rail yard?
    No thanks.

  10. Has anyone taken into account that buildings never actually look exactly like their renderings? I would wait until further along in the construction project before jumping to conclusions. The renderings don’t look good at all, but I’m imagining more color.

  11. Sean Martin says

    I really like the design; it will be a great addition to downtown! I think vibrant, healthy cities should have a mix of different architectural styles. I understand that opinions on modern architecture vary wildly, and everyone is certainly entitled to how they feel. Personally, I think the scale of the development and the exterior material palette relate really well to the location: an urban site located along the edge of a changing industrial area. I can’t wait to see it when construction is finished!

  12. I have to agree, they are about as aesthetically pleasing as the TVA Towers. I would have thought we learned our lesson on designs of this type. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  13. I think this project is suffering from heavy criticism because of a growing problem in the current way designers want to share and explain design through hyperrealistic rendering techniques. I work in design, so I can honestly say that it is quite easy to forget that other people not associated with design will maybe see your renderings in a completely different way than you intended.
    I think the closer a rendering tries to get to a realistic image of the final product, the higher the level of scrutiny the public tends to push onto it. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because a final rendering being critiqued by the public is a much closer version to the final product than an early massing model or a hand sketch. Critiquing a more complete design allows for public outcry to voice opinions on construction that might otherwise have a permanent negative impact on the surrounding context of the site. What could have started out in an early design phase as a simple 3 story building on an urban infill lot is now a 12 story low rise with potential parking problems. Lord knows I wish we had gotten some sort of warning on the dramatic reduction of the retail liner portion for the Langley Garage on Walnut street. On the other hand, we can’t take this rendering as the gospel truth of what the final building product will be because it is just an image at the end of the day. The realistic quality of the rendering implies that everything in the image IS real and final in the design. One example of this not being true is the brick that is called out as the dominant material on the buildings, which is not easily noticed in the renderings at first glance (especially if you didn’t open the image in a larger format).
    Pace-Sanders are good architects and I know they do good design so I imagine they would prefer to use a rendering with a higher level of detail, even if that may risk drawing some criticism at the end of the day because it is more honest than a simple hand sketch.
    I would imagine If the above renderings were instead some well-done hand drawing with cute bushes and pedestrians walking down Vine street then people would be less aghast at the austere building facade, but they would also have an incomplete picture of the design.

    • You are, of course, correct, but the poured concrete Brutalism sure turned out to create an unattractive City/County Building. I will withhold judgment but you can see the buildings now and the renderings look pretty true. The insides look amazing, the outsides look like a concrete box.

  14. I would like to point out that we don’t know the full background on this design and why specific choices were made. Everything from budget issues to owner requests to governing codes affects the design in some way. I do know one thing though.. It sure sucks to work your butt off on making a nice rendering for a project and then coming on here and seeing it absolutely ripped to shreds in the comments section.

    • I apologize, the rendering itself is not poorly done. Lord knows I couldn’t create that. I just feel like it would look much less institutional in person, where you can really see the details of the brick. The color seems too faded to be real just from the renderings.

    • I don’t think anyone meant the rendering was poorly done. The comments seem to all suggest that the design is horrible. Cold. Sterile. Institutional. People seem to be saying, myself included, that a warmer, more aesthetically pleasing design could have been made.

  15. I work as a public defender and have for years. You people don’t know what the hell a prison looks like.

  16. I agree with Oren and Sean below, however see where some people may be coming from regarding a ‘starkness’. For some reason many people don’t mind (if not prefer) working or socializing in a modern building, but then when that architectural style is applied to their home they feel it becomes austere or ‘lifeless’, without personality – hence the ‘prison’ references. I think in form this building is very strong, and the entries, steps, and lowered courts create a nice sense of pedestrian and residential scale. I will agree with Oren that renderings are hard to read, and note that Alan’s article in 2015 included a more conceptual rendering with trees and people, where the materials were less washed out. Additionally, that rendering highlighted wood accents at the row-house entries, which added a sense of life and warmth. In this new rendering, those materials are in shadow and hard to read. I believe in real-life the wood will help create a well balanced material palette, and that trees in the courts will help soften the edges.
    I will offer one note of critique – it seems that adding a small ‘reveal’ – be it insetting the brick – or creating an aluminum inset the width of a brick – that the individual row-houses would be better delineated. The facade may read better and break up the length of the building.
    I think this style of residences is badly needed (and desired) in Knoxville and applaud Hatcher Hill and Sanders Pace for pioneering this effort. There is a market for modern residences regardless of whether many of the posters here appreciate the style. I hope to see more of this housing form elsewhere in Knoxville, if not in varying styles – and hopefully at a more affordable price-point.
    Link to an image showing how a simple reveal would affect the facade:

  17. I don’t mean to insult the designer but honestly it is very unattractive. I think a building with an old town look to it would have been a better fit like Old Brownstones. My first thought was this is some kind of institution but not a place to call home. Disappointed………….

  18. One poster said it best below..

    Something that looks like it should be behind the iron curtain, 2 blocks removed from the rail yard, for a cool million dollars- hard pass.

    Enjoy that million dollar view of interstate 40 though.

  19. Well, going against the flow, I like the modern design a lot. Everything does not need to be Old City brick.

  20. The harsh comments seem to track the harshness generally in the United States right now. The architects and builders are the best around, have taken a massive risk, and will be judged on whether these condos sell. A garage, deck, and proximity to Market Sq all matter, a lot. I wish them luck, even if I concur with views herein on the outward aesthetics.

    • I don’t believe armchair internet critics are anything new or indicative of anything about current issues in the US.

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