34 Market Square Sold to Wests, Rooftop Expansion Planned

34 Market Square, Knoxville, January 2023
34 Market Square, Knoxville, January 2023

In a move that further adds to the Wests’ holdings on the east side of Market Square, Hatcher Hill has sold 34 Market Square to the West family for $3 million. With the purchase, the Wests own 36, 34, and 32 consecutively, and 28 and 26 side-by-side. They also own and operate businesses at 22 and 18 Market Square.

Tim Hill told me, “This is another of many recent transactions that repeatedly indicate the growing demand for properties in our beautiful downtown.” I sat down with Scott West to learn about the plans. He also explained the context and thinking for this and other recent purchases by the family.

“I’m too impatient to do the normal developer thing.” He said he “can’t sit on a property. I wind up doing shoestring stuff, but I get the business open.” He gave great credit to First Century Bank for not only this deal, but for working with them during the pandemic and beyond.

Scott Fake Works on the Spot of the Coming Expanded Rooftop

Just before the pandemic Scott and Bernadette were a $100,000 elevator short of opening Bernadette’s and had no cash. Scott put the elevator on two credit cards with the idea they would open immediately and pay it off quickly. Just as they finished the elevator, the pandemic shut down bars and restaurants. They had no money in the bank.

First Century Bank stepped in and restructured their debt, consolidating the loans and freeing up money for expansions I’ve reported on in this space over the last year. “What they did allowed me to survive the pandemic and invest in properties. They believed in us and . . . I’m willing to take risks.”

36 Market Square Market Square Drug Co Circa 1909
Market Square (1940s) Bower’s Army Surplus (future Tommy Trent’s), future Earthbound, future Scruffy City Hall

Last year he purchased the International and the Concourse on Blackstock, with plans to begin outdoor concerts there. The city has balked at the idea and that is still being negotiated, so he has pivoted to indoor concerts at the International, which begin with a Saint Patrick’s Day concert. The adjacent space, previously occupied by the Concourse will become “Yonderland” and, together with the outdoor space he hopes to have approved, it will all be part of the “Lunaverse.”

Late last year, Scott and Bernadette purchased 413 South Gay with plans of quickly opening a bar like Preservation Pub. “I didn’t really realize the condition of the building.” He was told it will have to be completely gutted. The roof will have to be repaired. Even the façade, which is currently cinderblock, needs to be returned to its historic look.

Ben Maney Improvising a Soundtrack for Charlie Chaplin’s ” The Immigrant” on the Rooftop at Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville Film and Music Festival, April 2016
Charlie Chaplin, Scroof CinePub at Scruffy City Hall, Scruffy City Film and Music Festival (Photo by Bill Foster, Courtesy of Scott West)
Charlie Chaplin, Scroof CinePub at Scruffy City Hall, Scruffy City Film and Music Festival (Photo by Bill Foster, Courtesy of Scott West)

With those things on hold, he began considering what he might do. Enter Tim Hill and Hatcher Hill, whom I wrote about yesterday regarding their large project on the 200 block of Gay Street. They offered 34 Market Square for the Wests to purchase. Scott had his next project.

He said the current tenants will remain, including Earthbound on the main floor. His interest in the building is more related to the rooftop. The family currently has a rooftop that covers the adjacent Preservation Pub and Bernadette’s. That rooftop space is about four times larger than the current rooftop above Scruffy City Hall. With the new purchase, he plans to incorporate the back half of the Scruffy City Hall rooftop and add the adjacent rooftop, quadrupling the size of the rooftop.

Bernadette and Scott West, 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Bill Foster)

He plans to do a large version of the Viking Hall atop the buildings, a concept he has talked about for years, but had yet to execute. He also plans to have a waterfall as part of the theme. He’s expanded the kitchen at Tommy Trent’s and that menu will be available to the rooftop on the new building and in Scruffy City Hall.

He thinks the work can be done quickly. “I don’t have to gut a building.” He plans more projection events, as they’ve done previously from the Scruffy Rooftop, but now the capacity will be much larger. He imagined showing a Vikings game on the wall while people watch from his Viking Hall. One of my favorite downtown events happened there with Ben Maney live scoring a Charlie Chaplin movie. Expect more of that, maybe with a moveable LED screen. There will be heaters for cold weather and misters for hot weather.

Expect to see progress soon. He’s too impatient to do otherwise.