It’s been long journey, but then it was a massive project. I think the first time I wrote about it the demolition had already begun and that was over five years ago. The project took some twists and turns along the way. Regal wasn’t involved when it started, for example, and then they wound up with one end of the development. Retail was included, then it wasn’t.
Vic Mills, Co-founder and CEO of Southeastern Development which developed One Riverwalk was on hand for the grand opening last night. Though the company is based in Augusta, Georgia, he is from Knoxville. He reminisced about graduating from Powell High and playing football in South Knoxville against South Doyle. He graduated from UT and founded the company over thirty years ago.
He also has a personal connection to the former Baptist Hospital. His grandmother was a cashier in the cafeteria which he noted was approximately in the same place where he stood to deliver his remarks. He also recalled sitting in Mayor Rogero’s office and looking across the river at the million-square-foot building and wondering if they were crazy to purchase it.
Mayor Rogero pointed out that the purchase, demolition and construction of One Riverwalk traces almost the entirety of her tenure as mayor, which she also noted has 85 days remaining. She said she has a view of the site from her office and watched it with binoculars as it evolved. She joked that she’d contact Vic if there were no workers present.
She also estimated that when the building is filled, there should be roughly 2,000 people living along the south waterfront. Most of those people weren’t there five years ago. If accurate, it makes the population just south of the river somewhere around half that of downtown proper. She said she anticipates the new population to be an impetus for business on the south side of the river.
Still to be completed is about 1100 feet of a public riverwalk between the new apartments and the river. Some light retail is anticipated to be located there and plans are underway to push it further to the east. There will also be a 37,000 square foot open-air event space between the new apartments and the Henley Bridge.
One Riverwalk has seen steady booking of its 300+ units. Opened last winter, the complex is now 65% full and 70% leased. Mr. Mills said that forty-three units were leased last month which is the largest number of units they’ve ever leased at one location in a month. Jordy Young, the leasing professional who gave me a tour of the two-bedroom unit shown in this article, said he plans to move there from west Knoxville when his lease is up.
The building contains a mix of one- and two-bedroom homes that range from 640 square feet for $1,365 per month to 1,213 square feet for $2,434 per month. A large pool, community room, and impressive workout room is available for use by residents. And then there is the view of the river, the University of Tennessee, and the city skyline which is unparalleled.
While the absence of retail along Blount Avenue feels like a miss, the fact that we’ve been able to replace a million square feet of empty hospital space with housing for hundreds of downtown residents is a big win for the city. In combination with our most prominent company headquarters in the downtown area, it certainly feels like the beginning of much bigger things for the south side of the river.
Ed. Note: Consider stopping by the WDVX studio at the Knoxville Visitor Center at noon when I’ll join Juila Watts for conversation and reading on Wordstream, their Friday spotlight on writers.