Downtown Home Tour 2023 Returns and is a Smashing Success, Part 1

333 W. Depot Ave., Regas Square Bldg, Doug and Melissa White, Downtown Home Tour, June 2023
Downtown Home Tour, June 2023, Gay Lyons33

Taking the opportunity to get to know Knoxville better through its homes and homeowners is something I love to do. I have been looking forward to this event since I covered its transition as it changed hands from City People to the East TN Historical Society. My appreciation for downtown made participating in the first tour since 2019 especially exciting! My husband was keen to join me and picture what it would be like to live downtown one day, you know, once a couple of the kids are on their own.

The event began with a special VIP-only event hosted by the East TN Historical Society(ETHS) at Regas Square Events on the bottom floor of the Regas Square residences. Light bites were served, and guests heard from Dino Cartwright representing Regas Square Events, Dr. Warren Docktor, and Dr. Gay Lyons of ETHS. Then we were treated to a surprise home tour of the penthouse owned by Doug and Melissa White. Charming and spacious with floor-to-ceiling windows, this corner unit had us picking our jaws up from the floor. A beautiful staircase curved around and up to the second level for another terrace and living space. The Regas Square Bldg. boasts sweeping city and highway views, and from the White’s windows, you can see Neyland Stadium in the distance on the right and the Smokey Mountains on the left. Their patio space was cozy and comfortable, with plenty of seating that none of us wanted to leave. For me, the floor to (high) ceiling windows was the standout feature in the home.

333 W. Depot Ave., Regas Square Bldg, Doug and Melissa White, Downtown Home Tour, June 2023

Regas Square has 101 residences, all with impressive amenities. This building opened four years ago and has all the modern conveniences you would expect. Each unit has hardwood flooring, large, walk-in closets for the main suite with spacious bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows in the living space, a workout center, a parking garage, a private outdoor gathering area, and ample storage, not to mention access to Marble City Market for a variety of meals and drinks.

Our first stop on Saturday was the second VIP home. I’ll tell you more about that in part 2 of my coverage.

The second home we visited Saturday was The Elliot at 207 W. Church Ave. It was hosted by Nikki and Eric Elliott (No relation to the building’s namesake, unfortunately, but if you have any history of this building, please share!). We enjoyed viewing one of the homes in the fully restored building that was transformed into eight homes several years ago. This 1907 building has remained residential since its first opening. First as a residence for young professionals and doctors, then a 190-bed rooming house in the 1930s, then a cheap rooming house in the 1950s. The Elliotts have three children and were able to share with us how they have made that work with a smaller home and an urban setting. One room has loft beds with room underneath for desks and hang-out space, and there is a living space on the main floor and basement level, allowing the family to congregate in either area. The Elliotts moved into the home in Sept. 2020. The standout space in this home was a basement wine cellar that is original to the building.

The Glencoe Building at 601 State St., hosted by Zach Bowling, was constructed in 1906. It has remained a residential building since its opening, like the Elliott. Both buildings have beautiful curved stairways leading to the upper floors and original tile flooring. The Glencoe was renovated and restored in 2009 and is divided into five homes. In this home, we enjoyed the perspective of a single, professional resident who has used his space creatively and thoughtfully. The main bedroom was large and had a lovely ensuite bathroom with beautiful tilework. A second bedroom doubled as an office and guest space. A standout feature of this home was the model of the Titanic ship built from Legos that the homeowner displayed in a glass display above the kitchen island. These locations are off the main drag, so they are a little less noisy but still within walking distance of every benefit of downtown living.

Next up, the Phoenix Building at 418 S. Gay Street, hosted by Kendall and Mike Keller. The Phoenix building has an extensive history of fire damage dating back to the “million-dollar fire” of 1897 that destroyed an entire city block and killed three people. The original building was ornamented with a stone phoenix, hence the new name representing rising from the ashes. The current building was constructed in 1899. It has housed Cullen & Newman Queensware Wholesalers and Fowler Bros., who called it home for over 50 years. Another fire in 1999 required extensive repairs. The building was renovated by developers Wayne Blasius and Skip Bibb, who renamed it The Phoenix. For many downtown visitors, it is a building that houses art, the Phoenix Pharmacy, and Status Dough. Most do not think of it as a housing development. With a large main bedroom showing off original brick walls and windows that allow the natural light from the living space to come in, you can see the creative efforts of the developers to make the area desirable. While scaffolding obscures the view right now, you can typically look right down onto Gay Street from this unit. The open floor plan gives the feeling of more space than you’d expect here. The standout feature here was the creative use of a nook to make an office space leaving nothing to be desired. The homeowners renovated the kitchen two years ago to allow for a better flow and some updates.

Lastly, for part 1 is the Gallery Lofts, unit 401, hosted by Tonya and Bill Ramsey, which Urban Guy covered last week in a sneak-peak. These units are located above Mast General Store at 402 S. Gay St. and was also one of the buildings destroyed by the fire in 1897. This mixed-use building holds several one-level condos with private balconies and several three-level condos with private balconies and rooftop decks. You enter these condos by the metal walkway on the left of the building and take an elevator up to your desired floor. Tours like this allow for a look at a “day in the life” of an urban dweller, giving space for a look around and the ability to ask those burning questions and strengthen the downtown appeal.

The Ramsey condo is on the top floor and has a lovely but dizzying spiral staircase that takes you to the top level, where they have a wet bar, game table, and patio space. The patio has a small grill, perfect for their needs. The first room we saw had a built-in bookcase to make any bookworm jealous with art pieces that highlight their appreciation for various forms of artistic expression. Each room had customized furniture from Sticks Handmade Furniture. I first came across this brand at a gallery in Asheville and have had my eyes on it for a while. Seeing it in this space was fun and made each room feel special. For example, the game table was customized with their pet’s names, and a chess set with cats and dogs as their game pieces. This was the standout for me, along with the mountain and city views from the living room and balcony.

Thank you to these generous homeowners for opening their world to the first Downtown Home Tour benefitting the East Tn History Center. Each was beautiful and different, allowing many different lifestyles to be envisioned.

For more on the other half of the homes we visited and the final VIP home and photos, I’ll issue part 2 tomorrow.

What is your burning question for downtown dwellers? Would you consider moving downtown with all the new developments projected to open in the coming years?

Remember to keep comments constructive.