Supreme Court Site Redevelopment Officially Gets Underway

Supreme Court Site Ground Breaking (Photo from Mike Cohen’s Facebook Page)

It’s been many years coming. The reclamation of the city block bounded by Church Ave., Cumberland Ave., Locust St., and Henley St. has seen several aborted attempts at returning it to life. I first reported on the current proposal (though it has since evolved) over two years ago. Most recently, I presented the current version of the plan last May. With the first scoops of dirt moved by local dignitaries today, the project is officially underway.

It is being called “one of the biggest private projects in the history of downtown Knoxville” by the developers. The project includes 237 apartments with parking and amenities and a conversion of the former Supreme Court and adjacent building into a hotel. It’s a joint project with Dover Signature Properties and Bristol Development Group with a projected total investment of $76,000,000.

Rendering of Henley Street and Church Street View of the Supreme Court Site Redevelopment

Dover is based locally, and while Bristol Development is based in Nashville, its CEO, Charles Carlisle, is a UT graduate who started his career in Knoxville. The project blends new construction with a renovation and re-purposing of an older building. It’s something Dover Properties has done successfully with numerous local, historic properties, such as Knox High Apartments (formerly Knoxville High School) and Hyatt Place (formerly the Farragut Hotel).

Knoxville City Mayor Rogero and Knox County Mayor Jacobs were on hand for the event, along with numerous city council and county commission members and others. Mayor Rogero said, “This entire block has been underutilized for many decades, and the buildings have been completely vacant for about 15 years . . . This is an important step forward for downtown, and it’s been a long time coming.”

Old Supreme Court Site, Knoxville, October 2014

After the city purchased the property from the state for $2.5 million, an RFP was issued that resulted in a plan that did not go forward. A second RFP resulted in the purchase of the property from the city for $2.6 million by the current development team. A PILOT has been issued by the city to help with the project, and CBID has offered additional support.

While discussion and debate regarding every project proposed for downtown, from its architectural qualities to its range of uses, is encouraged, it’s important to consider all the impacts. A parking lot sitting on a long-abandoned city block is now the site of a massive investment. 300 or more new residents will move into downtown and more will visit in the new hotel development. Those are powerful boosts to downtown development’s continuing momentum.


  1. I commend Rick Dover and his abundant mentality to collaborate with Bristol Development to create “one of the biggest private projects in the history of downtown Knoxville.” Thank you Rick. Charles and the City of Knoxville Executive team for your investment in our wonderful downtown community! One more example that proves Knoxville is on track to be o e of the Greatest of Tennessee cities!

  2. The north side of the block is Church street, not Clinch.

  3. It is very exciting to see this project get off the ground. On a related note, has there ever been a time in the last 30 years when there have been this many new build construction projects going on at once downtown? Very exciting times for our downtown to say the least!

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Not in the last 30 years or 50. The two towers were built downtown at the end of Gay Street around 1980. I think the Whittle Building (Now the Supreme Court Building) was built in the mid-eighties. I don’t know of anything else of significance in the immediate downtown area that was built from then forward until this boom. The Coliseum was built in the 1960s, I believe and the hotel on the hill beside it (under various names) was built, maybe in the late 70s or early 80s. This many at once may be only matched in Knoxville history by just before the Great Depression would be my guess. That’s only a guess, but an educated one. Anybody got a better guess?

      • I believe the following is correct:

        Plaza Tower was finished in 1978.

        Riverview Tower was tied up with the UAB seizure and wasn’t completed until 1985.

    • I feel like there were considerably more at the same time in 2014-2016… I could be wrong though. Not counting finished or almost finished projects (Embassy Suites, Mews 2, One Riverwalk, Crozier) all I can think of is the Supreme Court site, the two complexes in old Sevier, and Stockyard Lofts. Am I missing anything?

      • The Kerns site, the 6 story building on Hill Ave, a 6-8 building going up on Cumberland (although that’s out a little bit).

        There are a large number on the outskirts of downtown. Two new subdivisions going in around the old Maryville pike area. Apartments going in behind the Captain D’s, more apartments behind the Shoneys, that weird Hobbit resort(?)

        There are so many places being renovated right now it’s pretty incredible.

        I’m not excited about the particular project, although, I like seeing the space get utilized. I know Alan did an article awhile back about how many hotels can downtown support I wonder the same thing. But on the other side the ability to have that many people could help the city attract more events or grow ones we have. So I’m definitely excited about where the city is at.

      • Previous lists forgot Regas Square and Marble Alley.

        The number seems small once it is listed out because a decent number of bigger projects that have been going on right now are renovations of largely vacant or underused existing buildings in the downtown area. If we also include in this list of recent development Mill & Mine, Axle Logistics, The Press Room renovation, Kress Building, Embassy Suites, Hyatt Place Hotel, and Tombras then we have a pretty healthy building boom.
        I am pretty darn excited at the idea that downtown is finally starting to reach the limit of existing buildings that it has available to renovate and soon we will see a larger percentage of our downtown construction being comprised of new builds.

      • Thanks for all you do. Love to your family Alan.

  4. Roy H Brown the third says

    Can you please update me on the kerns project my name is Roy Brown my grandfather started Kearns bakery and I was the last president and chairman of the board when it was sold by my family in 1989 please let me know the status thank you so much

  5. The hotel on the hill by the Coliseum was here around 1970-71 ( I think). I seem to remember my grandparents staying there @ that time.

  6. This is very exciting. I’ll be excited to see how it shapes up. Maybe it will lead to a renovation of the adjacent UT conference center (how neat would it be to see that return to a department store like Macy’s or something).
    I am very interested in learning more about the T at riverfront since that is the closest thing to a high-rise this city will have seen since Riverview tower in the 80’s.

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