Tombras, Regal headquarters to fuel downtown


The Tombras Group advertising and public relations firm revealed it would move its headquarters downtown, the second such announcement in recent months.

The Tombras Group has bought two Gay Street buildings, including the former Knoxville Utilities Board headquarters at the corner of Church Avenue. Earlier, Regal Entertainment Group made a deal to occupy the former medical office building at the south end of the Gay Street Bridge from downtown.

The two headquarters, which eventually will employ a combined 600 people, will be a welcome addition to downtown and the South Waterfront. Until now, office development has lagged behind residential, retail and restaurant development in downtown's revival.

The Tombras Group has outgrown its current headquarters location at 630 S. Concord St. The former KUB building and a smaller adjacent building cover 54,000 square feet. The firm also has offices in Nashville; Louisville, Kentucky; and Washington, D.C.

The buildings will undergo extensive renovations. The Tombras Group's president and CEO, Charlie Tombras, told the News Sentinel the plans include a photography studio with a 30-foot ceiling and six editing suites. The Concord Street location does not have a studio and only three editing suites. The exterior of the KUB building — made of distinctive glazed green bricks — will be replaced.

Like Regal Entertainment, which is relocating from Halls, the Tombras Group is asking for incentives to help with the move. The firm is seeking a 20-year, $1.7 million tax-incremement financing package from the city of Knoxville and Knox County. The façade replacement disqualifies the project for $1 million in historic tax credits available from the National Park Service.

City and county officials should move forward with the incentives, which will help pay for the revitalization of an under-used property in a prominent location.

The Tombras Group is investing $10 million in the two buildings, which currently are owned by Hatcher-Hill Properties. Hatcher-Hill in involved in another new development downtown announced last week — the purchase of a parking lot at 316 Gay St. — between the Century Building and Mast General Store — where the development firm plans to build a six-story condo-and-retail building.

Downtown's continued growth, plus the rejuvenated South Waterfront redevelopment, boost the local economy. Projects now seem to feed off one another, with new residents attracting new restaurants, shops and now office developments.

Tombras said downtown's vibrancy played a key role in the decision to move because it helps recruit the type of creative employees vital to the firm's success.

The Tombras Group and Regal Entertainment enjoy national prestige. Last year The Tombras Group won a national Ad Age Small Agency Award, while Regal Entertainment is the nation's largest cinema operator. The two companies also have deep roots in the community. Adding their headquarters to downtown's office mix is a positive development that should help fuel the city's economic momentum.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit

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