A Look at the Supreme Court Building and Tower Renovations

Proposed Design for the Supreme Court Building – View from Locust Street

Recent updated designs have been submitted to the Downtown Design Review Board for the Old Supreme Court portion of the site being developed by Dover Development. The plans, developed by Design Innovations Architects, show short term rental units for each of the buildings with an additional two residential units added to the top of the Supreme Court Building.

Photos of the Current Building

Originally conceived as a hotel, the subsequent influx of downtown hotels shifted the project’s direction. While recent attention has been more directed at the development of the massive parking lot attached to the building, this section includes the only building of historic interest.

Cross section View of Buildings (Tower in the rear, Supreme Court in Front)

In addition to the two unite on top of the original Supreme Court building, the office building to the rear will also have an addition of a penthouse. Both buildings will have rooftop deck space. The parking at the rear of the office building (adjacent to Henley Street) will remain. A courtyard will be built between these buildings and the adjacent apartments currently under construction.

View from Henley Street

The projected completion for all parts of the project was 24 months at the outset, with ground officially broken in October of 2019. That would project to late 2021 for the project to come online, assuming no delays.


  1. Yay more unaffordable housing!

  2. I know it’s just a rendering but the vision for this spot seems to keep getting less and less inspired. Especially with the decision to leave a surface lot.

    • Kenneth M. Moffett says

      Can’t disagree. Normally a bold gesture deserves some measure of support, but the angled penthouse on the office building seems almost to make light of the court building. And where did the tired old tiered cornice on the all-white piece come from? Let’s have a site plan for a better sense of current changes.

  3. Lydia Pulsipher says

    Could you show a map, please? To approve or disapprove of this admittedly uninspiring design, I need to place it in the general city scape.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I don’t have one ready to copy and paste. It is the city block bounded by Henley, Cumberland, Locust and Clinch.

  4. Sean Martin says

    What is meant by “Short term rental units” in this context? I usually hear that term in reference to Airbnb and VRBO type rentals. Does that mean the Supreme Court building and former office building will be apartments that are geared towards being airbnb’s?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’m not perfectly clear, but it is similar, at least. Apparently there are apartment/hotels like this popping up, which, I assume, is in response to the Airbnb demand.

  5. Not excited at all my rendering – and so disappointing to read that they are keeping a surface lot – wayyyyyy too many of those in downtown, why not green space instead?

    • Code requires a certain amount of parking spaces depending on the zoning.

      • Yes, but this is downtown so that zoning doesn’t apply. Also, I feel like they got rid of that requirement with Recode but I could be wrong. They made so many changes

  6. Didn’t the original bid have to include a percentage of affordable housing? I thought Madeline Rogero required that from developers or am I getting confused with a different project?

  7. Man…how incredibly disappointing. The words “lazy”, “uninspired”, and “sad” come to mind.

  8. The proposal is super engaging and really adds to the original design without overpowering the immediate context. Truth be told in considering Knoxville’s architecture scene that has often maintained a very conservative take even on new construction, this adaptive reuse IS inspiring without being “in your face“ loud.

    • I agree with you K A , at least in regards to the Supreme Court building. It was ugly and uninspired to begin with, so covering up as much as possible is very positive and creative! The other building on this site is as Dave says…. lazy, uninspired and looks similar to so many other multi-residential projects in this town. Developers should learn that unique, inspired architecture will sell for more $ even as it does cost a bit more! We also need a Design Review Board that does indeed review design, but the local bureaucrats do not allow that. The rules and review would have to be changed by council and mayor.

  9. The project is quite good, because it is very important to reconstruct buildings that have historical significance. First of all, I like the idea of a penthouse and patio. In addition, it is the center of downtown, so the building should look appropriate. Of course, housing prices in this building will be very high and there are obvious reasons for this: the city center, the age of the building and the amount of investment in the project.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Thank you for the comment. Please use one user name and profile picture. 🙂

    • Kenneth Moffett says

      The supreme court building itself deserves careful treatment and is evidently getting it. The office building behind it is of no particular architectural or historic significance, but it is wise to renovate it rather than replace it. The main issue of concern on the block is the design of the other three-quarters of the project, which seems, from limited evidence, to be oddly underwhelming at best.

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