In June 2021, Avi Zenatti and Ilana Brodt, under the name of Break One, LLC purchased the building for $5.5 million. In October of 2021, the couple agreed to a 99-year lease with HD Patel and his Ephant Group. The group planned to renovate and re-purpose the building into a hotel with two restaurants at street level and a roof-top bar. Mr. Patel desired to purchase the building and eventually an agreement was made for him to do so. He completed about $800,000 of demolition work on the interior. Deadlines recently passed for both the lease and the purchase without payment, however, voiding the deal.
As a result, the 58,000 square foot property returns to the market with representation by Sotheby’s agent, Orel Brodt. The property is available for lease or purchase, with a purchase price of $16.5 million ($284 psf) and a lease rate (if the entire building is taken) of $18 psf. It also includes a basement which includes the original bank safes and an open skylight through the upper floors.
I spoke to Ilana Zenatti about the buildings and her hopes for what happens next. “My vision for Gay Street is to be more elegant and high-end retail,” she said, and so HD Patel’s plan, she felt, was a very good one. Now that those plans did not materialize, she would love to see someone do something similar. She said if the building doesn’t sell or lease in a timely way, “I will develop it.” To that end, she is proceeding with plans to do just that.
“I like to develop a concept that I think is good for the city I live in. I never felt connected to any city in America I lived in for the last thirty-six years until I came to live in Knoxville.” She’d owned property here for decades, but moving here changed her feelings about the place. “For some reason I feel connected to this city and love the people.” That has been reflected in her care with the plans she has executed in Emory Place. She hopes to see a great project at the corner of Gay and Wall.
While she doesn’t have completed plans, she has an idea of what she would likely do in the building if it doesn’t sell or lease. “I would do a very high-end retail first floor . . . the basement I’m thinking about a very high-end gym, or spa, massage, jacuzzies, like a Four-Seasons Hotel Spa.” She said she has no interest in owning the potential businesses herself but would lease to owners of the businesses. “I would develop each (of the two top floors) floor with ten apartments with large two- and three-bedroom apartments (for a total of twenty).” Being on the perimeter of the building, each would have windows to the street.” She said she would love to see a men’s clothing store or high-end watch store on the street.
“The bones are very good. The electrical is there. All the AC is new and there.” She said very little would be required beyond interior walls and routing the electrical to where it is needed. At this point she would like to see the building in use and is prepared to do it if a buyer doesn’t step forward.
It’s an important corner on Gay Street, a block from Market Square and across the street from the most developed block in the city, the 400 block of Gay Street. The three hundred block on which it sits has some development, but also has a parking lot which appears to be there for the long-haul and two undeveloped holes where buildings used to be. Activating this spot could help the connection along Gay from the 400 block to the 100 block with the coming development of the 200 block.
I also spoke to Orel Brodt who is representing the property. She said, “For me, I dream of this being a hotel or multi-family on the top. So much of the infrastructure is already there, either multifamily or hotel would be great for downtown, along with bottom floor retail or restaurant.” She said there is a great need for more retail space and businesses which would benefit downtown.
You’ll find the property listing here. The listing includes a contact button, as well as Orel’s phone number should you be interested.