New Ownership Brings New Plans and New Life to the Kerns Bakery Site

Aerial view rendering from above Chapman Highway

For a place with so much promise, it’s been a long and twisted journey. A series of owners has produced evolving plans that stalled and never came to fruition. Potential and promise simply never translated into a viable project able to move forward. The sixteen acre Kerns Bakery site has been purchased by Mallory and Evans Partners, LLC out of Scottdale, Georgia whose principals, Brantley Basinger and Alex Dominguez, make it clear they intend to change that track record in short order.

The plans call for multi-use development, including preservation of the historic building for use as a combination retail, hospitality and office space. The hope is for a high-tech space intended to be a gathering space and functional asset to the other portions of the development. At 75,000 square feet, there is room for a range of uses. In the press release, Dominguez said, “We imagine the large bakery itself will house an eclectic, locally-sourced and highly-curated mix of restaurants, smaller food vendors, specialty purveyors and even collaborative office space.”

The intention is to have businesses that complement one another and to have the building have not only extremely fast internet service, but to have smart technologies built in that will help optimize space usage. The basement below will be available for storage so that businesses do not have to allocate potential retail space to a non-revenue producing use.

Kern’s Bakery Building, 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, July 2015

Kerns Building Interior, 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, March 2018

Kerns Building Interior, 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, March 2018

A 160 unit “boutique-style” apartment complex will be built to the rear of the property overlooking the site, and offering views of the Knoxville skyline. Directed at young professionals starting their careers, amenities will be directed at these near-and-recent graduates.

A small number of one-bedroom units will be included, with the remainder being two-bedroom units designed for roommates. All apartments will be fully furnished and will offer the latest in smart home technology. It will also offer a pool, fitness center and clubhouse.

An outdoor entertainment space between the apartments and the current building will be used for concerts and other events. Completing the plans will be a “brand-name limited-service hotel . . .” Located toward the front of the property, the hotel will front Chapman Highway and, according to the developers, will include a restaurant on the northern side addressing the Kerns Building. Parking, they tell me, will be under the hotel.

I was graciously offered the opportunity to speak with the developers via conference call to ask follow up questions. Clearly excited about the opportunity to develop the site, they told me a bit more about their plans and what led them to this spot in the first place.

Kerns Bakery Building, Knoxville, February 2013

Kern’s Bakery Building, 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, July 2015

Mr. Bassinger said their company was approached with the possibility of developing the site and they were immediately interested given the access to downtown, public transportation and the urban wilderness via the rails to trails development beside the location. A market analysis suggested these planned uses were the most likely to be successful and the plan was born. “We felt we could fill a need and a product type to fit a high demand. We want to target that young professional and student looking to make the transition from student housing.”

Mr. Dominguez added, “We are excited that it is non-traditional value creation and preservation. The building isn’t perfect, but that creates its authenticity. Every time I went to the city I discovered a new treasure.” Stating that it would be much easier as a developer to level the site and build a Walmart, he indicated this is much more rewarding and referenced Krog Street Market in Atlanta as an example of how transformational a project like this can be for an entire area.

The two also pointed out the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in that the components each serve as an asset to the others. The apartments and hotel will deliver a customer base to the businesses, while the businesses serve as convenient amenities for the residents and visitors. Mr. Bassinger said he could imagine family of the apartment residents staying in the hotel for a visit, meeting in the restaurants and the shops for dinner and planning a day hike via the adjacent trails.

Kern’s Bakery Building (Property to the Rear), 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, July 2015

Kern’s Bakery Building, 2110 Chapman Highway, Knoxville, July 2015

I asked about the parking situation, given a number of businesses, 160 apartments and 100 to 120 rooms in the hotel, as well as potential concerts or other events. Parking will surround the apartments on the hill, as I mentioned previously, underground parking will serve the hotel, and some spaces are available. They also pointed out that a public garage with free night and weekend parking is just a short walk away. As developers, they are also seeing a reduction in private car usage with the surge in rideshares. There will be a pickup and drop off location designed into the site for Uber and Lyft.

They see the development as an amenity for south Knoxville. The concert space can accommodate up to 1500 people and will be open to the public. They hope people will park there to begin a hike and return for dinner and drinks at one of the restaurants. They also hope to have outdoor outfitters, perhaps a bike shop and small grocery to fit the residential and recreational spirit of the development.

Mr. Dominguez pointed out that it would “be easier to bring in national chains, but that would damage the uniqueness. We hope to attract a brewery or two, restaurants, provide a co-working space as we preserve and enhance the building.

Both gentlemen gave substantial credit to architect Jimmy Ryan with Johnson Architecture who they said “has been passionate about helping design and develop this vision.” Financing has been helped by the fact that this project falls into an “opportunity zone,” which encourages investment in under-served areas.

Rendering of rear view of the Kerns Building and concert space

Mr. Basinger said the group had been deliberately quiet about the plans, wanting to make sure they had it right and could make it happen, before going public with their plans. They realize both the importance of the site to the city and the fact that there have been false starts before and they didn’t want to elevate hopes unless they were confident they could bring the project to fruition.

The project and its components have not been officially named at this time, but the name will in some way pay homage to the historical importance of the spot. The group intends to break ground in July, starting with infrastructure improvements to support the various components of the development.

They will do some work on the existing structure, but final build-out will be tailored to client needs. They hope to have the apartments and retail/office space operational by late summer or early fall of 2020. The timing of the hotel will depend on how quickly that portion of the project is finalized.

If you are interested in inquiring about possible retail space, a contact template is provided on the landing page for the project.

Editor’s Notes:

I have several events coming up to which I’d love to invite you. Check them out below to see if you might be interested.

  • Urban Hike, Saturday, June 1, 11:15 AM. As a part of Bike, Boat, Brew and Bark, I’ll be leading a walk and talk as I did last year. We’ll follow a similar route, starting at the Market Square Stage and walking across the Gay Street Bridge to Suttree Landing Park before returning to Gay Street where we’ll disperse. Along the way we’ll talk about the city, development and whatever else you’d like to discuss. the walk is free, but participation is limited and registration is required here.
  • Knoxville Writer’s Guild, Central United Methodist Church, June 6, 7:00 PM. I’ll be the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild, discussing the writing journey that is Inside of Knoxville. It is open to the public and a small donation (for the guild) is requested.
  • Arts and Culture Alliance, Emporium, June 13, 5:30 PM, “Growing Your Social Media Presence,” Cost is $5 for members and $8 for non-members. Registration and payment are required here.


  1. This is fantastic news! The short timeframe for completion gives me hope that they’re actually going to get the ball rolling soon.

  2. Your text format of white on black is extremely difficult to read. Would you consider switching to traditional black on white?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I very occasionally get asked about this. I might consider changing at some point, if enough people have a problem. I favored the look from early on and that’s why I did that. Thanks for letting me know that it’s a problem (I think there is a technological way you can reverse it. Maybe one of the other readers could explain the trick.)

      • Personally I like the way it is.

      • Chris Eaker says

        If you change the text color to light gray, it does make it easier to read on a black background.

      • Larry Lewis says

        Alan, you know I’m a fan, but Ed makes a valid point, in my opinion. What’s esp’y problematic for some might be the purple shade for links against black. Something to consider, yes.

      • I’ve always had the same issues with the light on dark format – very difficult to read – but thought it was just me. Otherwise, always enjoy the updates.

      • Reverse type is a huge problem. I love reading your work, but sometimes I quit midway because of the lack of legibility. Any basic graphic arts textbook will show that reverse type is a typographic device meant for short passages, NOT for an entire article. Please change. Thank you for your work. It is appreciated.

    • If you’re on an Apple device, click the lock button three times.

  3. Chris Eaker says

    As soon as I read their plans, I thought of the Krug Street Market in Atlanta. I hope they can do something as cool as that. The main difference I see, and this could be a problem, is that the area around Krug Street Market called Inman Park, is highly walkable. This area, obviously, is impossibly walkable. I hope that doesn’t doom the project.

    • Or possibly something like a mini version of the Armour Yards area in Atlanta that’s developed recently. I really liked that area last time I was down. Upscale tech workspaces, housing, & retail/restaurants/etc.

  4. carrie walker says

    They should hire CD+M lighting design out of Atlanta! (They have a designer working remotely out of Knoxville….)

  5. I love all this vision people have and the desire to invest but can someone please tell me where all the people are coming from, and what jobs they’re coming for, for all this new residential development? Every time I read something new there’s a 100+ unit condo or apartment complex coming in, but never seem to hear news of new companies coming in opening offices. I’m all about the growth, but I must be missing something.

    • Just because you are not hearing regular announcements of job development does not mean that the current companies in the Knoxville area are not growing. I agree it is nice when we see big news of companies relocating to Knoxville. I think a better judge of the health of the area is looking at the population growth of Knoxville and Knox County. Obviously, some of that growth is happening in and around downtown.

  6. Love the development. I guess I hope from the city’s perspective the add some connecting roads, like to Mimosa or maybe over to the new apartments going up off Lipencott. Not that they will do much but would give some side street options for when traffic gets backed up on Henley.

  7. So the major amenity that I hope comes to this spot is the eventual rails with trail from Chapman to Ijams. I am assuming no money has been budgeted to move that possibility any further, Alan, have you heard anything more about it?

  8. Is Aubry’s still planning to open on an out parcel?

  9. Just John says

    Thank you for this update ! I’m glad the site will get the attention it deserves.

  10. Steven H says

    Any idea if Aubrey’s is still looking at the area though?

    Didn’t an earlier version of the Riverwalk plans have a restaurant on the Southeastern corner of Blount Ave and Chapman? Where the old bank is/was….

    Love this development, would like to see to see the stretch of chapman between the new apartments and Kerns continue to get more development (along with the area just past Kerns) and continue to create a nice gateway into downtown and vice versa into south knox.

  11. Thank you for a comprehensive overview as well as doing the follow-up conference call with the developers. The additional information gathered and reported adds much understanding of the ambitious plans. Great job Urban Guy.

  12. “It would be easier to level the site and build a Walmart.”

    Only if you think you can persuade the Historic Zoning Commission to let you tear down the building with an historic overlay on it AND you think you can ignore the south waterfront code.
    I’m happy to see the plans but the developer shouldn’t act like he’s doing us a big favor by saving the building. He’s not.

    • I don’t think that’s what was meant by that statement. Rather its easier to start with a blank palate when your developing land. Its easier to grade, stage and finish in a timely manner. Saving stuff like this had a lot of surprises and cost associated with it.

  13. Did they specify which “public garage with free night and weekend parking is just a short walk away?”

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I believe they would be talking about the one on Blount. Currently it requires a brief walk around via Chapman, but it is directly very short and a direct path seems perhaps possible (across Mimosa). It’s .3 miles and 720 spaces.

  14. Is this going to affect any small businesses near Kern’s? I know there is a sign shop and restaurant near the hill that is referenced in this article to be used for parking.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I don’t think so. There is no business currently located on this property.

      • Looks like on the aerial view next to the bakery shows a new hotel which would knock out those businesses. The article mentions the hotel will face Chapman so the only direction to build would be the empty lot, restaurant, and sign company. I guess we shall see the plans soon.

      • Looks like on the aerial view next to the bakery shows a new hotel which would knock out those businesses. The article mentions the hotel will face Chapman so the only direction to build would be the businesses. I guess we shall see the plans soon.

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