Friday, November 4, 2011

Depot Avenue: A Possible Development Corridor?

White Lily Building from the northwest corner of Depot and Central, Knoxville 2011

White Lily Building early 1900s from the Knox Library Collection
When I heard about the sale of the White Lily Building and its pending development, I was excited. I'm always happy when a new project starts downtown and that was true of this particular project, but there was more. This is across the tracks on Central Street. It feels like a true expansion of the current downtown footprint. I also had recently attended the Hola Festival on Regas Square and I know that it is available for development and the two are just down the street from each other. I'd never walked through Depot, so I decided to do so after my tour of the White Lily Building. 
Northwest corner of Depot and Central

Building just to the west of Central on the north side of Depot
 The last picture I took of the White Lily Building elicited a bit of conversation on the blog, yesterday, and it reinforced my idea of Depot as a Development Corridor. The final picture I took of the building was from the northwest corner of Depot and Central. An astute reader (aren't you all?), John, posted a link to the picture above which is taken from a similar (though higher) perspective and shows an attractive Victorian era building which he speculated may still be underneath the sheets of metal. A view of the two pictures makes this look very likely. Then "MB," a reader apparently in the know, confirmed as much. So, there you have it: anonymous readers on a local blog agree: There is an anchor building for the Central to Broadway Depot Avenue Corridor.

South side of Depot across from Regas Square, Knoxville 2011

Halloween Part in the Depot, Knoxville 2011
 Across the street is a building that could be made to look attractive and could house retail/residential spaces. I'm not sure what it houses right now. Beside it is an awful looking eyesore, but just past it on the north side of Depot is a strip building currently holding Industrial Belting and Supply Company. Could it be retail? I think so. This corridor is tree-lined on the southern side and then opens up to the old Depot. I'm not sure if all that space is still used by the railroad. This night there was a Halloween Party going on in one section of the depot.

Regas Square: Former restaurant and hotel is available

Jackson Avenue just over the viaduct from Depot with new Dewhirst development
 To the north side, again from the Depot is Regas Square which Mr. Regas has pitched as a spot for development. It hosted the Hola Festival as I mentioned earlier and is just over the viaduct from the 100 Block where another Dewhirst residential/retail development is well underway.

Block of Gay Street between Depot and Magnolia just across from Regas Square

Other side of the block: O'Hanlon Residence

Entrance to the O'Hanlon residence
Past Regas Square is a picturesque block of older buildings which includes Whist Court (does anyone know about this place?) which opens up onto Magnolia. It also contains a small theater and the offices for the O'Hanlon Group. On the other side of that building is the very cool residence of Mr. O'Hanlon. 
North side of Depot Avenue one block from Broadway (west) and Magnolia (north)
Ugliest Building in the City? ATandT Building, Depot Ave. Side

Another usable building is just past this spot on the north side of the road with a large parking lot for ATandT employees. The unfortunate part of the block is the massively ugly ATandT building itself, which no doubt employees many people and contributes greatly to the city, but still, ugly is ugly. Somebody please tell me there is a beautiful building beneath that surface!

AT and T Building: Just as ugly on the Magnolia Avenue side
So that brings us to within site of Broadway. Of course, all this parallels Magnolia which is slated for major improvements as the Magnolia Avenue Corridor and already includes recent addition The Public House. Develop Depot, develop that section of Magnolia and connecting up to Happy Holler is creeping closer. "You may say I'm a dreamer" and I may be the only one, but still, it just doesn't seem that far-fetched. Ten years ago it would have been laughable.

Have a great weekend and First Friday everybody. Consider swinging by the KMA for a Tribute to Phil Pollard with Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet and guests.

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At November 4, 2011 at 10:55 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Doesn't seem far-fetched to me, although the proximity to I-40 and the railroad are major hurdles for residential uses.

At November 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

... meant to add: AT&T built "bunkers" like that all over the nation. Designed to be resistant to natural disasters (and man-made ones too). There's no beauty underneath.

At November 4, 2011 at 11:02 AM , Anonymous Katie P said...

The other end of Depot has development potential as well with the recent opening of The Quarry at Marble City Brewing Company and the Magnolia Corridor / Warehouse project. Too bad Depot Ave isn't bisected by James White Parkway and Hall of Fame Dr, it might be the next major redo after Jackson Ave.

At November 4, 2011 at 11:04 AM , Anonymous Katie P said...

I meant "is" bisected.

My Mom worked in that building for Bellsouth in the early 70's. And it is very unattractive.

At November 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM , Anonymous John said...

Urban Guy, I think you are right on with this one. It's something I've been thinking about for quite some time (how to grow the city in this direction). You already know my affinity for the McClung collection's photos (I'm their unofficial photo identifier), if you check those out, Depot used to be a hub of commercial activity.

I love the building on the corner of Depot and Central. If you'll check, you'll find that Dewhirst owns it as well. Moreover, the "eyesore" next door, which I can only assume is the fenced, vacant lot, is also owned by Dewhirst. I think this is where they store some of their downtown saving equipment.

The AT&T building, unfortunately, was built that way. It was an addition onto a much more attractive sort of Gothic Revival building that you didn't picture. I've seen both the concrete bunkers and the Gothic buildings under the AT&T banner in other cities (i.e. Charlotte).

Keep up the good work. I'm following you on facebook.

Below: Depot Street, 1920's. Note the Hotel Adkins and Central Hotel on either side of Gay Street.

At November 4, 2011 at 1:04 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey Guys,
I'm going to dip into this to respond to some of the comments. Greg: Glad I'm not alone in thinking it's feasible and I really didn't suspect beauty underneath the ATandT exterior. I figured it was ugly to the bone.

Great work with the photos, John. I really appreciate it. Yes, the eyesore I referred to was the vacant, junkie lot. I'll have to go back to look for that Gothic Building you mentioned. It was pretty dark by the time I got to that part and I'm surprised my pictures did as well as they did. Thanks, again.

At November 4, 2011 at 4:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Industrial Belting and Supply *is* retail. Maybe not exactly the type you would prefer. But it's retail nonetheless.

And Whist Court is condos.

At November 4, 2011 at 6:20 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hello Anonymous,
Well, I was under the impression that retail by definition sold to end users. Since that business sells to industry, wouldn't it be wholesale? Thanks for the info about Whist Court. Recent? Expensive? Lower price? Rental?

I also have to ask if you are angry about something. Maybe it's just my imagination. Take care, friend.

At November 4, 2011 at 9:05 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

Whist Court is about the same price range as Sterchi and there are some nice condos there for rent.

At November 5, 2011 at 9:52 AM , Anonymous Art said...

For years I've thought that Depot could be a key street for downtown expansion. (I wish it hadn't been broken apart by the elevated.) However, just like Jackson, there is only so much there that can be restored, or deserves to be. A cinder block building that took no imagination to build is still a cinder block building no matter the age. For real expansion, serious new building (with proper aesthetics) is going to have to take place.

That area was once full of vitality and energy because of the railroad station and all the various businesses that revolved around passengers and freight. Imagine the energy the area would have if passenger rail were once again a way of life for downtown. I'll keep wishing and talking it up to anyone who will listen.

At November 8, 2011 at 4:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not angry in the least. But I maintain that the belting company is retail. The industries who purchase are the end users. Put another way, they collect sales tax. That's probably the best way to distinguish retail from wholesale.

At November 8, 2011 at 8:10 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Thanks, Andrea. I never realized it was there and it's odd it's never talked about when downtown housing is discussed. Art, I'd love to see passenger rail, but I'm not sure that will happen. I agree about the new construction. At some point the usable buildings are going to be taken and we will have to re-build on the parking lots left when we tore the other buildings down. Anonymous, I'm glad you aren't angry. Your previous post seemed a bit testy, but then tone is such a tricky thing to interpret online. AS for whether the belting company is retail or wholesale, I may be wrong on that, but regardless, I think your point is they are already there and are paying taxes and making a contribution to the city. Am I right? If so, I completely agree. It isn't so much about the kind of retail I want to see as much as the kind of retail that would make that a "street full of vitality and energy" as Art said. The average city dweller wouldn't likely have needs for industrial belts. That in no way means that business is inferior to any others or less deserving of appreciation for the work they do or the contribution they make to the city. Again, this is just my opinion, so take it or leave it. I do appreciate the conversation whether we agree or not.

At December 22, 2011 at 6:54 PM , Blogger Austin said...

I see what you both are saying, however, not every building downtown can sell books or used clothes. A variety of economic engines is needed to return downtown to what it used to be. If there are people coming into the city to buy items at the belting company, then it should stay unless it is a heavy industrial use surrounded by residential or other businesses. Imagine all of the people that will spend money downtown on lunch or other businesses as a result of buying belts or hoses or whatever.

Cross use is key to city vitality, not just light retail. That includes belts and hoses! :)


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