Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is there development potential under our feet?

Entryway beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville
Regular readers of this blog know that I recently spent some time walking Depot Avenue and considering the possibilities for development. As a part of that post I took pictures from Depot toward the main portion of downtown across the tracks. These shots reminded me that I've wanted to explore the underside of Jackson Avenue.
It's been pretty widely documented that the 100 Block of Gay Street was elevated from its original topography in order to allow automobile traffic to cross the railyard more safely. I'd never thought about Jackson Avenue's rise and fall as it crosses Gay Street into the Old City as being a similar project, but it must have been.
Shaft checks out the possibilities beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville.

There are pretty intact doorways, passageways and areas that look as if they may be currently used for storage, perhaps in support of the renovations occuring on street level above. The corridors, passageways and rooms under the street would lead to some of the structures on the 100 Block of Gay Street, though much of that space, as has been documented elsewhere, is taken by pipes, wiring and other infrastructure for the residents and businesses above.

A Glimpse underneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville
Some of the entry-ways could easily be attractive enough to be used in only slightly modified form for the entry into a bar or cool restaurant and the space behind them seems adequate for such a purpose. One of the steadiest long-term complaints about downtown would not be an issue as a large parking lot sits directly in front of these potetial businesses. If it all sounds a bit ridiculous as a location because it looks unattractive or unsafe, please consider the spot a few blocks to the west where the Valarium and Cider House seem to be thriving.

Beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville
Just to the east, on the same level, are the loading docks, which I assume were built to hold frieght from or for the trains when the rail system was at its peak. I've thought for years that these would also make great shops, restaurants and bars. I've seem similar structures so adaptated in San Francisco and I'm sure it's been done else where. This would further cement the connection between the 100 Block and the Old City. 
Loading Docks off Jackson: Storage now available.
Unfortunately, I recently received a flier advertising that some of that space will now be offered for storage. I've always felt long-term storage to be an indictment against western consumption and commercialism. If I don't have room for it I need to let it go - or better, yet, never buy it in the first place. But then, I'm as guilty as anybody of wasteful spending and needless accumulation. Besides, short-term storage is probably a need for many people. It just seems like a waste of real estate in the city. Maybe it's a temporary use for the buildings.
So, do I think we'll see this kind of development by the spring? No. I will likely be many springs until such a thing would be considered, but I think it's there waiting for the right vision. Maybe yours? Just askin'.
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At January 17, 2012 at 1:45 AM , Blogger Ally Gregory-Moore said...

It would be great to see that area utilized. Maybe now that the pizza place/ bar has opened at the end of Jackson it will inspire investors to commit to the lost portion of downtown.

Also, I am the manager of the Urban Bar. If you are ever down here, feel free to say hello.

At January 17, 2012 at 7:40 AM , Blogger margaux verdera said...

I think the loading dock / storage space belong to Heuristic Workshop (who does great work) http://www.heuristicworkshop.com/
But that space under the bridge would be great! I'd definitely drink there!... but maybe it's just the hobo in me. lol!

At January 17, 2012 at 10:03 AM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey guys,
Ally I'll definitely stop by the Urban Bar. I'm not sure why I've never checked it out before. I loved that place when it was Ella Guru's and I think it may be the coolest spot in the Old City. I didn't realize the Pizza/Bar place had opened. I'll have to get there, too. Blogging is hard work! :-)
Margaux, I'm with you on the hobo element. Maybe you are onto the working concept and you should be the one to take it on! As for the loading docks, I know Heuristic owns at least part of that space, but the storage signs started being posted late last year, so I don't know if they are doing it or someone else. Think about that hobo/trainyard thing. I think you may be on to something.

At January 17, 2012 at 10:04 AM , Blogger Andrea said...

I love the idea of getting the underground of Gay St. up and running. I think that the underground entrances need to be fixed up quite a lot first. But it would be such a cool place if it was! And I also love your idea for the loading docks. That would be a wonderful thing. Maybe we'll see it happen if enough people want it.

At January 17, 2012 at 8:29 PM , Blogger Kevin said...

I thought Heuristic went out of business in 2011?


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