Downtown TVA Credit Union Develops Plan to Move

Current Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at the corner of Gay and Wall, Knoxville, August 2019

Rumors have circulated for some months that the downtown TVA Credit Union, currently located at the corner of Gay Street and Wall Avenue, has plans to move. While contracts have yet to be finalized for a purchase of the building, steps have been taken for the credit union to purchase and occupy 31 Market Square, most recently home to Bluetique. The Historic Zoning Commission has approved the plans for the new location.

Alterations to the exterior of the building are very minimal and primarily involve signage and a place for an ATM. The two elements of signage, as pictured in the renderings, involve branding on the awning and an extending sign much like many of the others on the Square. The branding on the awning will be smaller than shown in the rendering.

The primary exterior alteration is to insert a door inside the current entryway to the main entrance. This door, which cuts through a wall perpendicular to the front of the building, will lead to a small space for an ATM. So, the credit union will provide access to an ATM that is out of the elements and somewhat protected, while still being completely visible from the square through a window.

Proposed Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at 31 Market Square, Knoxville, August 2019

Rendering of the Proposed Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at 31 Market Square, Knoxville, August 2019

George Armour Ewart Architect is leading the design effort. As discussed in this space with the opening of First Century Bank downtown, the interior design reflects the changing realities of modern banking. With so much banking happening online, there is less need for the cavernous space required in a previous generation. Along with the reduction of in-person banking is the reduced need for personnel to interact with the public.

Just inside the door of the new space, past the ATM, will be a very small waiting area with room for about four chairs. That area flows to two teller “pods.” Two small offices follow, to be used for private interactions with customers. Space for a copier and a change machine are included. And that’s all. The entire footprint of the floor is roughly 2,000 square feet and this includes room for storage, a staff restroom, an elevator and stairs.

As discussed in the First Century Bank article cited above, the reduction in space required for basic banking functions leaves room for other uses. In the case of First Century, while they occupy a very large building, they occupy only a small portion of the space on street-level, leaving room for a planned restaurant.

Proposed Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at 31 Market Square, Knoxville, August 2019

Interior Schematic of the Proposed Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at 31 Market Square, Knoxville, August 2019

For the TVA Federal Credit Union, what is left behind, should this proposed move become a reality, is a very large, three-story building occupying an extremely prominent corner of Gay Street. Sitting on the 300 block of Gay Street, it is adjacent to the most densely developed block in the city, in the 400 block, which includes a large number of residents and businesses.

It is my understanding that the building will be offered for sale and for redevelopment. It’s a singular kind of building, with no openings on Gay Street, which is a poor urban design. The interior has a massive open atrium, meaning the large building does not include as much square footage as one might expect for a building that size.

Current Site of the TVA Federal Credit Union at the corner of Gay and Wall, Knoxville, August 2019

At the very least, the building would have to be drastically altered to assume an alternative use or mixed use. It’s an incredibly valuable corner, but whether a potential developer would consider the building a candidate for re-purposing is an open question. A demolition seems as likely as not.

The potential for retail space lining that corner of Gay Street and wrapping around the corner onto Wall, restoring some of what was lost on that street more than a generation ago, is an exciting prospect. Extending the residential and/or retail corridor along Gay Street is equally appealing. Perhaps the building can be preserved with an altered interior, exterior and, perhaps, additional floors. Simply having the opportunity to discuss the possibilities is exciting.


  1. Ideal property for small grocery. Like a boutique Publix. Has on site parking. The mezzanine allow for escalators than can carry buggy’s. Been done before in Ft Lauderdale. If I was still a broker…

  2. Storefronts with “cast stone” bases are easily reworked to allow for doors, so Gay Street openings are easily worked into a future plan.

    And technically, there is a door on Gay street, most people just miss it every time they walk by it. I suspect it leads to a riser room. It has a twin on the Wall street side as well, probably an electrical room. And I have no idea how exactly the doors work. But they’re there…

    • Actually, I just realized they’re probably exit only doors for fire stairs from the upper floors. Makes sense that the F/D connection to the riser is in a fire stair, fairly standard location.

  3. Speaking of TVA’s downtown properties: a couple of years ago there was a flurry of excitement when TVA announced they would consolidate their operations into one of the two towers and vacate the other. Did they ever finalize that plan, and/or decide what to do with the freed-up tower (Request for Proposals, sale, etc…) ?

  4. I noticed that TVA Credit Union is preparing a building in Centerpoint Business Park just off Lovell Road and Pellissippi Parkway. The building had previously been occupied by Alstom Energy I think.
    Plans are to have over 100 people working out there, so it must be for their new operations center and maybe other functions. I only know because I work in that business park and I see the activity next door.

  5. Does this mean that the Credit Union is moving their headquarters from downtown to another location????

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’m not sure where the headquarters will be, but obviously not in that building. The building being occupied does have an upstairs, but I saw nothing that referenced using that for offices.

      • Technically, TVA FCU moved its corporate offices almost a decade ago to Perkins Place on Brock Ave. It’s a 100+ year old school building down the hill from Sutherland Ave and Cherokee Mills.

  6. Alan, do you know when the current building was built? It’s age and structure might limit options for re-purposing.

    • Hi Ron. Hope you don’t mind me jumping in on the answer. The building was constructed in 1957 as a department store, the W. T. Grant Company, which opened that August. After that store closed in the 1970s, the building housed offices for TVA. Before the TVA Credit Union opened there in 1989, the building’s interior was gutted and completely renovated.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

        Quite the opposite, I appreciate it. I wondered the same thing and didn’t have time to find out. Thank you. I cannot imagine that building used as a department store. They must have also completely changed at least the Gay Street-facing exterior of the building. Fifty years is often the number used for determining whether a building is historic, so it is over that from original construction, but I wonder if you could argue that the current clock should start in 1989. I’m all for re-purposing because of the environmental cost of demolition and new construction, but it’s hard for me to imagine in this case. That said, it is highly probable that someone with a greater imagination than mine will purchase the building.

      • Ron Sharpe says

        Thanks, Paul! I remember going to Grant’s for school supplies when I was very little! I’m sure it was before Summit Hill was gouged across downtown and it all looked very different. I would have had no idea that was the building. Shortly thereafter we took our trade over to Kmart on Broadway where they had free parking. (Kmart was kind of a big deal in those days)

  7. Thanks for letting us know about this. I wondered why they were telling members with safe deposit boxes to clean them out.

    In the fourth paragraph, I think you meant to say “commensurate” instead of “commiserate.”

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Thanks for the correction. FWIW, I have received editing help this week (which is about nine years overdue) and my editor changed the word. Articles are generally edited by 8:00 AM, meaning the early readers get the raw version. 🙂

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