Cranes Everywhere . . . and That’s a Good Thing

Crane off Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2019

Chances are you’ve gotten so used to seeing them that you look right past them at this point. Not so many years ago, the sighting of a crane downtown would be something unusual. There wasn’t so much need for them. With empty buildings occupying the space between vacant lots, there wasn’t much need for work on the rooftops – if the buildings had roofs.

We’ve come a long way from those days. Drive through the downtown area in recent years and you’ll see cranes in multiple directions. UT and the Cumberland Avenue corridor have maintained a virtual forest of the things. We’ve seen very large ones on several projects downtown, including the recently completed Marriott and the cranes used to lift structures onto the coming rooftop bar above the Embassy Suites.

Crane off Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2019

Crrane on the east side of Downtown, Knoxville, April 2019

I was surprised to notice a crane beside the State Street Garage yesterday because I knew the crane had been removed from that project. I quickly realized it was lifting pieces to an HVAC system onto a building fronting Gay Street. A couple of blocks away another crane was doing the same for another building. To the east of Marble Alley, I spotted another one and three were lined up working in chorus on finishing touches for Regas Square.

Triple Cranes, Regas Square, Depot Street, Knoxville, April 2019

Before I lived downtown I’d never considered how essential cranes are to a functioning urban area. It goes beyond construction. Large HVAC systems sit on top of buildings, of course, but so do many individual units for individual condos. Replace one and you’re probably looking at a crane.

New roof? Rooftop patio? Large window replacements? It’s all about the cranes. In a real way, the number of cranes is a decent barometer of the health of the city. Missing roofs and fallen down buildings don’t generally attract cranes, but a city with a growing population does.

Temporary No Parking on the 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2019

Temporary No Parking on the 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville, April 2019

All of which brings us to the new crane you’ll notice this morning if you are out and about in the city: A crane will be erected on the 100 block of Gay Street and will remain in place for one day only, doing work on the Sterchi Building as it continues its transformation from apartments to condos. That block will be closed to traffic, but businesses and sidewalks should not be impacted.

It’s a good thing, right? It needs to be our mantra during this era of unprecedented recent growth in our downtown. We aren’t necessarily happy to find closed roads and sidewalks, but its the only way we grow. Celebrate it — and avoid driving through the 100 block today.


  1. Speaking of Regas Square, have any tenants been announced for the first level yet? It’s so close to being done I don’t even see any construction wrapping when I drive by anymore, and their Facebook page shows that the interior is basically done, so I figure some company would have made an announcement by now.

  2. Hassan Owais says

    It’s good to see the cranes all around us in downtown but there are hazards attached with its operations for general public walking and driving all around them.
    Precautions are being taken but i dont think the controls implemented to minimize those hazards are not appropriate, in consideration to the nature of the hazard and risks involved.

  3. It made business a little difficult for the coffee shop on Gay Street a few years ago- but how fascinating 😎

  4. Chris Hill says

    Urban Guy, You have just rediscovered the RLB Crane Index of economic activity in cities. Your thinking is in line with theirs. See:

  5. Now there is a crane/lift type machine in front of the Oliver Hotel. They are painting the bricks. What’s up with that?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I asked about it and was told that the painting had been approved by the Historic Zoning Commission as a part of upgrades to the building. Generally, painting unpainted brick is seen negatively, but it appears this brick may have already been painted – sort of a brick color.

  6. Rachel Dellinger says

    Hey Urban Guy, FYI they have a sign that says “Sidewalk closed” and are not letting pedestrians down the Sterchi side of the sidewalk this morning, but that could change as the day goes on. Thanks for the updates!

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