Monday, January 30, 2012

Market Square Still Evolving: Is it getting better?


Preservation Pub: New Solar Panels and Roof Garden

It seemed the news from Market Square had run its course for the month, from the footnote to the splashy: Bernadette West got approval for some of the solar panels she wants on top of Preservation Pub and Tupelo Honey is coming to 1 Market Square.

Just when it seemed the month would end without more changes, the latest change was announced just before the weekend: Scott and Bernadette West have purchased 32 Market Square. What does this mean? Well, if you believe the comments on Knoxnews, it means either the War on Drugs has been lost or the War on Drugs was a dumb idea in the first place. I'd just as soon look at it through another lens.

There are two businesses on the first floor of that building. I'm not sure if there is currently anything above them. One is Swagger, which is a high-end athletic shoe store originally located in Bearden and on Market Square for just under two years. It wasn't my kind of place, but I enjoyed talking to Ricky. I'm told he hasn't worked there since before Christmas. The other business is Harb's Tailoring. I'm not sure how long this business has been on the square, but it has the look of something from an earlier era.


32 Market Square: Harb's Taylor and Swagger

The plan is for the West's to replace both businesses with an entertainment venue called Scruffy City Hall. The idea appears to be that some artists want to charge more to play than Preservation Pub thinks their patrons would like to pay. This will provide another option for bands who might like to charge $10 for a ticket. I suspect the Wests will do a first class job of this re-purposing of 32 Market Square and you'll probably find me in the new establishment enjoying some great entertainment.

So, it's all good, right? Well, not completely in my mind. It has not been a week since, walking through Market Square, I thought, "People seem to think we only have restaurants and bars in Market Square, but we have so much more." And it's true. Even though the most recent announcement prior to that had been of the advent of Tupelo Honey, there is so much more. We have gift shops in the form of Earth to Old City and Bliss. We have home goods at Bliss Home and clothing and accessories at Fizz and Crass Couture. We have Knox Ivi and an outpost of WBIR along with the Chamber of Commerce and a beauty salon.

But until now we also had a shoe store and a tailor. Two pretty old-school merchants to mix and match with all the new shiny concept stores. Who cares, right? Well, I've got a little concern. We have many, many bars and restaurants downtown and not so many shoe shops and tailors. Are we a place to dine and party or are we a place to live where the residents can also dine and party?

This is nothing against the Wests and nothing against the new business. I have no problem with either and fall into the camp of gratitude for what they have accomplished downtown. I'd like to think they might understand my thoughts regarding building a city. Maybe both these businesses were heading out in any case. I'm not sure what kind of volume Swagger did and Harb's did seem anachronistic in the face of everything happening downtown.

Ugly Storefront at 30 Market Square: Architects with no civic pride? Really?

So, what now? What needs to happen next for Market Square? We are getting Scruffy City Hall and we are getting Tupelo Honey at 1 Market Square. We have two great openings and one ugly, ugly storefront at 30 Market Square. Of course I'd like to see the owners at 30 Market Square finally become good citizens and make their storefront less of an embarrassment. Did you know they are architects? Can you say, "irony?"

2 Market Square: Imagine a Parisian-styled Pharmacy

I'd like to see something different at each of the corners - 2 Market Square and 36 Market Square. It would be great if it could be something that would draw people downtown. Sure, we all want more of that. But I'd love it if either or both could be solid retail establishments that people living in a city actually need. 36 could make a great clothing or small department store.

As for 2 Market Square, a rumor circulated recently on Facebook that it would be a mattress store. That didn't sound so good to the people who discussed it there. Not that people downtown don't like mattresses, but such an exquisite address seems to beg for more. The "For Lease" sign still hanging in the window suggests the mattress idea hasn't been put to bed.

Pharmacy in Paris from http://www.frenchgardening.com/index.html  

Here's another idea: What about a pharmacy? In Paris there is a very small (by our standards) pharmacy every few feet - which has to do with how much better the French health care system is - and they are very cool. You can't necessarily find a two liter drink, a hair dryer, a photo developer and a full selection of greeting cards, but you'll find the most essential over-the-counter medications and most of the common prescription medications all available from a very friendly and helpful pharmacist. That's what I found and I've learned it is not at all uncommon.

If we can't have a pharmacy and a clothing or department store, here's hoping for something at least a bit different that adds to the life of the city. And here's to the West's new venture. I wish it nothing but success and I'll probably see you there. It's just that at some point, somewhere down the road, we will become a real, vibrant place to actually live a life or we will become an Epcot-like entertainment venue. I'm hoping for a genuine place to go about a daily life. What do you think?

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16 Comments:

At January 30, 2012 at 12:43 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

I agree with you. I heard the shoe store was closing anyway, but I don't know about the tailor. Maybe they will find a way to stay in downtown and just move locations.

 
At January 30, 2012 at 1:42 PM , Anonymous Greg said...

Are there any independent drug stores left in the Knoxville area? If so, they could be approached to try to interest them in expanding to add a downtown location. Whoever staffs the downtown business improvement district would be a good person to tackle that.

 
At January 30, 2012 at 2:14 PM , Blogger tthurman said...

Long's, although I can't find any sort of company website.

http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/68/730857/restaurant/Bearden-Village/Longs-Drug-Store-Knoxville

"Step back in time at this diner that opened for business in 1956. They've been packing folks in for hearty, satisfying breakfasts ever since. Choose from biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, and fluffy pancakes. The last of a dying breed, this drug store diner even features an old-fashioned soda fountain that kids will love."


I've always been under the impression this place has sort of icon status in Bearden, although I have never been there myself. If there is going to be a pharmacy in downtown, I feel like it has to have a secondary means of income to survive, perhaps this would be a good fit.

 
At January 30, 2012 at 9:37 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey Everybody, I don't have any information about the Tailor, though I'm guessing there won't be a relocation. I don't know of any independent drug stores in Knoxville. I wold doubt that Long's would move downtown as they are in a second generation at the same location. I could see needing a secondary means of income, though the pharmacies on every block in Paris are simple and targeted, which is another way to go.

 
At January 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, 2 Market Square may not be deep enough to house a hardware/office supply store, but it might be able to handle an upscale barber shop. Something like Frank's out on Northshore. That might fit the vibe.

Shaft

 
At January 31, 2012 at 7:51 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

The "recruiter" would be trying to interest them in opening a second location, KUG. Not moving.

Towns in the Main Street program have business recruitment as one of their main missions, so it can be done.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:12 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Okay, I did google search that I should've done before I asked. There are several independent drug stores in or near Knoxville. Belew Drugstore seems like a possibility for what you want downtown. They already have 3 locations, including one not too far out in north Knox. There's also Gordon's, Mac's, Volunteer, Four Way, Farragut and more. The only way for little retailers to grow is to add new locations, so maybe one could be interested if approached with a good business case and some incentives from the BID.

Walgreens dominates the pharmacy business in Knoxville and I don't know if they ever choose urban locations. CVS definitely does, but they're nowhere to be found in the region.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Oops, CVS is all over the area. I'm going to stop making comments now so I don't say anything else stupid.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

marketsquare36 checking in

There is not any suggestion from above that we have not explored. We have been in negotiations with most of the suggestions; however, we can NOT make them sign a lease. Like it or not, we have to make some profit. I really wish it was as quick and simple as possible!
km

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM , Blogger kimmik479 said...

What happened to Urban Outfitters? It would be a great fit. I wonder if the "new" jcpenney concept would work as a small boutique downtown? They're trying to be hip and new. In case your curious and missed the details http://ir.jcpenney.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=70528&p=irol-newsCompanyArticle&ID=1652614&highlight=

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:07 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

What's an upscale barber shop? I wouldn't mind strolling to the Square for my annual haircut, I don't suppose.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:08 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

This all makes sense to me, Greg. I'm not sure who would take the ball and run with it to the local drug stores. If CVS does urban, I wonder if they wouldn't consider it. It wouldn't be as much a risk for those guys.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:10 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

We know you are working it, man. We just have to find the right fit. I was actually hoping someone might read the post and consider 36. I know it has to make money and you need tenants. I can't believe it will be available much longer.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 8:12 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

There is a persistent rumor that Urban Outfitters may be re-thinking the building. As for Penny's and their new urban concept, wouldn't that be ironic? We have a large, empty hulk of an abandoned building right in the midst of the primary development on Gay Street which used to house (drum roll) JCPenny.

 
At January 31, 2012 at 9:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It won't be.
36

 
At January 31, 2012 at 9:11 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

I. Would. Love. A. First. Shot. At. Reporting. The. News. :-) Please let me know as soon as any news can be made public.

 

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