Downtown Knoxville news to watch in 2022, from food halls to housing
- The Old City continues to be a hot spot for downtown real estate as the stadium project moves along.
- With downtown getting more expensive, expect even more developments north and south of the city’s core.
- With drama heating up at Marble City Market, keep an eye on vendor turnover, along with Kern’s construction.
- Housing prices are increasing, and downtown continues to be one of the most expensive places to live in Knoxville.
Downtown Knoxville news from the first half of 2022 was dominated by the multiuse stadium project near the Old City, which continues to impact every corner of downtown months after its approval.
The direct impacts are obvious. But as for the indirect impacts, just the idea of a stadium can increase the value of nearby real estate and encourage prospective business owners and developers to think differently about adjacent neighborhoods.
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Two other areas of downtown interest, the food and music scenes, also should be on everyone’s radar as we move toward next year.
These are the top storylines to watch as we head into the second half of 2022.
Old City land grabs near Smokies stadium site
Old City baseball probably won’t happen until 2025, but developers already are stepping up to the plate and purchasing property around the site just east of James White Parkway.
Expect properties to transfer to new owners in 2022, only for them to transfer again. There’s money to be made as the Old City continues to evolve as the hottest spot for downtown Knoxville real estate.
Recent purchases suggest cool concepts could be coming. Top downtown developers like David Dewhirst, along with up-and-comers like Will Sims, are grabbing land left and right.
Dewhirst Properties, through Knoxville Southern Station LLC, is the new owner of the former Greyhound bus station, which broker Justin Cazana said could become an “iconic corner” where the nearby Fifth Avenue and Fourth & Gill neighborhoods meet the Old City.
Sims, of Oliver Smith Realty & Development Company, is involved in the redevelopment of the former Bowery and NV nightclub buildings. This property is just steps away from the stadium site and is slated for restaurants, retail and residential.
“I’m seeing a lot of these properties transfer,” Sims said about the Old City real estate market. “That’s one of the bigger reasons – the location of the proposed baseball stadium and the multiuse development around that. … A lot of these investors, as well as myself, think it’s a good move to invest in that area.”
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Other projects in the Old City pipeline include Jim’s on Jackson steakhouse by Jim Klonaris, who is planning to build up to six stories of condos on top of what most people know as the Willow Creek Gallery site on (you guessed it) Jackson Avenue.
Development to the north and south
Developers have long called James White Parkway a barrier to building east of downtown Knoxville, though the stadium developers hope to change that. And while the University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus is a barrier to the west, redevelopment opportunities are seemingly endless just north and south of downtown.
Knoxville has seen lots of changes in these areas over the past few years, and residents should not expect progress to let up. Although the Old City is the new hot spot, the investment costs of entering the market around the stadium are only increasing.
Established developers like Dewhirst and Klonaris have a leg up on building in the Old City, while new and mid-level players in the downtown business scene could find more opportunities in the Broadway-Central corridor north of downtown or even along Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville.
As for the north side of town, developer Buzz Goss is hoping the apartments he has planned for an old church building can spur development like Sterchi Lofts did for downtown in the early 2000s.
Retail tends to follow residential, and Old North Knoxville could benefit from more multifamily housing. Don’t be surprised to see mixed-use developments announced for the area in the near future.
In the meantime, the neighborhood is gearing up for the opening of Yee-Haw Brewing Co. at the former Elkmont Exchange Brewery. The company has been working for months to reimagine the 745 N. Broadway facility, and the final product should be revealed this summer.
Across the Tennessee River from downtown, Sevier Avenue is experiencing an influx of new concepts. Just look at people like Ryan Shanley and Jocelyn Morin, the owners of Tern Club on Gay Street, who are bringing a 1970s-themed bar to the same Sevier Avenue building where Redbud Kitchen, Hi-Wire Brewing and Knox Selfie Lab have opened in the past three years.
A music venue recently opened on Sevier Avenue (more on that in a bit), and with regular improvements to Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, keep your eyes peeled for exciting outdoorsy developments on the horizon.
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Uncertain fate of Knoxville’s food halls
When Knox News wrapped up its reporting on Marble City Market’s opening in November, our team figured food hall coverage would be mostly finished until the Kern’s Bakery project broke ground.
However, starting six months after Marble City Market opened at 333 W. Depot Ave., vendors began dropping off.
With drama heating up at the food hall, it will be interesting to see how turnover impacts Marble City Market for the remainder of 2022. Hospitality HQ is bringing in its own taqueria concept to help fill the voids left by departing vendors, and existing vendors are expanding with additional concepts.
Food hall curator Hospitality HQ assures Knox News vendor drop-off at Marble City Market is normal, as many chefs use food halls to test whether their concepts are viable.
But vendors have regularly shared their concerns with Knox News, including their frustration with a lack of overall promotion for the food hall, located on a sometimes forgotten about edge of downtown.
The first departure was Po’ Richards, which cited dwindling foot traffic, followed by out-of-towners The Corners Pizza and Lake & Oak BBQ.
Now, Paysan Sandwich Shop and Fantail Fish & Frites have announced plans to leave, citing an overall disconnect in communication and expectations between vendors and management.
An episode of “The Scruffy Stuff” podcast examined whether the food hall has lived up to the hype and, since it published, a Hospitality HQ co-founder told Knox News the company took the suggestions to heart. Since then, a healthier option has been announced for the food hall, and a utensil station has been added.
Just south of downtown, the forthcoming Kern’s Bakery Food Hall should begin to take shape throughout the rest of 2022 and into 2023, though the project has been prone to delays. It’s slated to open in June, with 75,000 square feet of space to accommodate restaurants, bars, shops and more.
New housing and higher costs of living
Knoxville continues to develop its reputation as a place where people from all over the country want to live and, with the continued reimagination of the city’s core, prospective residents want to be close to the downtown action.
But the cost of living, especially downtown, continues to skyrocket and should be something for everyone to keep an eye on.
Stockyard Lofts has finally opened in the Old City, following a handful of delays, and more Old City apartments are planned as the stadium project moves along.
The first housing planned directly around the stadium site is a $45 million condo building comprised of nine stories and top-class amenities, which was announced in January.
The 200 block of Gay Street, long considered a “missing tooth” in downtown Knoxville, is primed for a massive retail and residential development that could help connect the core of downtown with the 100 block of Gay Street and the Old City.
Student housing also will continue to be a hot topic, as the University of Tennesseecontinues its plans to construct two new residence halls. It seems like additional student housing could be coming to a former Baptist Hospital building just across the river from downtown and to the entire 1900 block of Cumberland Avenue, now owned by one Chicago student housing firm.
And if the university’s plan to build a pedestrian bridge connecting campus to the South Knoxville waterfront is realized, even more private development and student housing could be drawn to the southern banks of the Tennessee River.
But underlying all this exciting development is the ever-increasing costs of buying and renting in Knoxville. The average rent in May was up 24% from the same time last year across Knoxville.
Downtown’s average rent cost of $1,429 was the fourth-highest across Knoxville as of May. That’s a 9.78% increase from last May and, with the pace of new developments and inflation, that number will only increase.
Downtown has an astounding occupancy rate of 99.59% and, with the heightened desire for urban living, expect developers to add apartments and condos any chance they get.
More venues and music-based events
The music industry is still feeling the effects of COVID-19, which rattled the touring industry over the past two years. However, as shows return to Knoxville at a regular pace, artists will soon have more venues to accommodate their touring needs.
With the departure of The Concourse from downtown Knoxville, the city has been in need of a mid-capacity music venue. That’s where the return of The Outpost comes in.
The former pop-up venue in the Happy Holler neighborhood is bound for a permanent location in the center of the city, located at 808 State St. (an appropriate address for any music producers out there).
Garrett Thomson and Kent Oglesby of Born & Raised Productions are the folks behind the venue, which would have a capacity of 450 people and still is slated to open in 2022, according to its website.
Thomson and Oglesby have not provided Knox News with any additional updates.
The Scruffy City also has been in need of a dedicated outdoor music venue, as the amphitheater at World’s Fair Park just isn’t well-suited for touring outside of one-off performances and the occasional festival.
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River Breeze Event Center, located at a former drive-in along the Holston River, is still under construction. But that doesn’t mean the music magic has to wait, as performances are planned for August and September. The first is UB40 on Aug. 18, followed by Here Come The Mummies on Sept. 9.
Fans of Salvage Station in Asheville will notice some similarities in regards to the concept and layout. General manager Aaron Snukals recently told Knox News the venue is roughly 75% complete and that the venue’s signature shuttle service to and from downtown will be running for these first events.
And get ready for the Aug. 27 return of Sunset on Central, a free festival by Born & Raised.
Music fans should expect at least part of next year’s Big Ears Festival lineup to drop, based on announcements from previous years. Expect a bigger and better Big Ears in 2023, as festival founder Ashley Capps recently told Knox News even more tickets could be sold following this year’s swift sellout if organizers’ plans to add more venues come to fruition.
The festival went outdoors for the first time in 2022, with performances held at the World’s Fair Park amphitheater.
Let’s also hope Thompson-Boling Arena can continue building on its recent record-breaking success. The venue hosted six of its 10 highest-grossing events between July and June, including Paul McCartney’s May 31 concert, which took the top spot.
On a much smaller scale, South Knoxville now has its own music venue on Sevier Avenue. Keep an eye on how Danger Company, primarily a motorcycle lifestyle brand and punk venue, fits in the outdoorsy, bike-riding, beer-drinking neighborhood.