Vine Furniture, 122 West Summit Hill, Knoxville, July 2019
Yesterday we took a look at the 75-year-old family business at 120 West Summit Hill. After focusing on the stability of the business, we’ll shift our attention today to their decision to change part of their building for the first time in about forty years. The focus here is the eastern portion of the building, which is actually a building of its own. The apparent building on the location is three or four buildings depending on how you slice it.
It didn’t set out to be so complicated. Pre-1970, a straight row of buildings lined Vine Avenue. Once the city determined to build Summit Hill Avenue, they intended to destroy the entire block. The family which, by then, owned the block convinced the city to leave the eastern buildings by cutting off the front 30 feet of each and leaving the remainder. The buildings on the western edge of the block were removed and the extension that faces west running perpendicular to the original buildings was built to house Vine Furniture. It was the birth of the odd configuration seen today on that block.
The Shinlever family is now proposing to remedy some of the damage done by that poor planning decision, by restoring an appropriate street-facing facade. Forrest Kirkpatrick of Fork Design has been enlisted to design the new spaces. Of the project, Forrest said:
Vine Furniture is a historic building whose facade was lost to the highway modernizations of the post-war era, along with the entire 200 block of Gay Street. This is important for us to remember as a city: that Gay Street itself and the connection between Market Square and the Old City were compromised during that period.
That city-scape cannot easily be put back together, however, we are fortunate that families like the Shinlevers worked as they did to preserve what buildings they could during the road construction. The Vine Furniture Redevelopment represents an opportunity to restore the pedestrian connection between the upper and lower parts of Downtown Knoxville while giving the Summit Hill Corridor a modern aesthetic in conjunction with the new sculpture planned for the Cradle of Country Music Park.
A look at the eastern exterior wall of the building reveals a section of brick on the front added in the 1970s when the original front was removed. Then center portion of the eastern wall shows the original bricks from around the turn of the last century, complete with bricked up, arched windows. The rear of the building is a third set of brick from a subsequent expansion and the back side currently has no openings.
Plans call for this section of the building to include two commercial spaces on the first floor and four residential units (apartments) on the top floor. The two commercial spaces will have separate entrances onto the sidewalk fronting Summit Hill. The residences will be accessed via the rear of the building off the parking lot (which was once the downtown YMCA).
The front of the building will have windows facing Summit Hill for the second-story apartments. The storefront will be recessed and a concrete planter will be added. The apartments will include two one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. Interestingly, clues in the second story suggest this second floor provided housing in a previous era – probably a boarding house.
Two of the three original windows on the first floor eastern side of the building (Charles Place is the official name of that alley.) will be replaced, with the third becoming a door required by code. The five upper windows on that side will be restored and an additional matching window will be added. The older brick on the side will be cleaned and painted and security lighting will be added illuminating the alley.
The rear of the building (facing the parking lot and Commerce) will see the addition of three new doors and two new windows. An entry court, loading dock and an aluminum deck and awning will be added. The unit on the southeastern corner will have access to the private deck.
In the scope of downtown redevelopment, this is a small piece. It is, however, a significant and important piece. It provides housing for four to ten new residents and two new businesses. It restores an appropriate facade facing the street. It makes the connection between uptown and the Old City just a little more convincing while undoing some of the damage to the city executed by a previous generation. That’s pretty big for one small building.
The hope is for construction to begin later this year.