A haven for outdoor adventures, developers craft big plans for South Knoxville

South Knoxville area is transforming into a major outdoor destination and will have a key role in transforming Knoxville, residential and commercial real estate experts said.

“South Knoxville is a fantastic market,” said developer Thomas Krajewski, who is one of the partners on the Baker Creek Bottoms project. “There’s a lot of density and a lot of population here.”

Commercial endeavors in the area are capitalizing on the outdoor attractions in South Knoxville.

The area north of downtown is defined by its historic neighborhoods, craft beer and artisans, said Josh Flory affiliate broker at NAI Koella I RM Moore.

South Knoxville is going to be the carabiner stand-up-paddleboard kind of vibe,” he said.

The area, namely Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, will continue to attract people interested in mountain biking, rock climbing and the proximity of South Knoxville to downtown. 

“I think (South Knoxville) will be an identifying destination, really an identifying point of Knoxville,” Krajewski said. “I think that Knoxville will be known for its Urban Wilderness and what it brings to the quality of life.”

The city’s $10 million Urban Wilderness Gateway Park, the county’s planned BMX bike park and the Sevier Avenue Streetscapes project will bring more energy to the area, Krajewski said.

“With the Gateway project coming online, essentially the James White Parkway becomes our front door,” Krajewski said of Baker Creek Bottoms’ location. “And the people that are already coming here are right now trail enthusiasts. When that project is done, not only will it be trail enthusiasts but it will be park enthusiasts, it will be families.”

The Sevier Avenue Streetscapes Improvement Project will begin in spring 2019 and will include new sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along the corridor, as well as a new roundabout at the intersection of Sevier Avenue, Foggy Bottom and Island Home Avenue.

Baker Creek Bottoms, the 80,000 square-foot former Sevier Heights Church campus, is still on track to become an outdoor-centric, mixed-use commercial development.

It’s next to Baker Creek Preserve, a 100-acre property with 7.3 miles of mountain biking trails. It’s part of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

“We want to be a commercial destination as an amenity for the Urban Wilderness,” Krajewski said. “A place for people to land and have a bite to eat or a place to stay.”

The team is reconfiguring its offered spaces based on initial talks with potential tenants, who have requested smaller space options.

Initially the developers planned to lease space for one restaurant. Now Krajewski said they’re pitching the space as a food hall, where two to four restaurants will have individual kitchens and common indoor and outdoor seating, inspired by OxBow Market in Napa, California.

The smaller restaurant spaces would allow for established chefs to test a new concept or a food truck owner could graduate to a more affordable brick and mortar location.

“This could be a really cool incubator for the food scene in Knoxville,” Krajewski said.

The developers have not secured any tenants yet, but have verbal commitments from a yoga studio and a coffee shop. They’re also in talks with a brewery and want to lease the bottom portion of one building to a bike rental and repair shop.

“I think we have as much excitement and confidence in the project now as we did when we first started the project, if not more,” Krajewski said.

The influx of people into South Knoxville has motivated commercial developers, who are seeking tenants for several major redevelopments.

“We’re very excited about the South Shore,” said Timothy Duff, a developer on the Sevier Avenue Retail mixed-use commercial facility.

Projects like Baker Creek Bottoms, the Kern Bakery building and Sevier Avenue Retail will strongly connect to the outdoor-centric demographic, Flory said.

“And developers cannot do it fast enough, that’s the problem,” Coldwell Banker real estate agent Kathryne Ogrod said. “Commercial real estate takes a long time.”

Sevier Avenue Retail, located at 906 Sevier Ave., will have small-shop retail, one large store space and a restaurant upstairs in the 35,000 square-foot building, built in 1949.

Duff said he was motivated to pursue the idea because of the influx of people moving to South Knoxville.

Alliance Brewing and South Coast Pizza owner Chris Morton said he is “committed” to opening South Coast Market, a neighborhood grocery store, on the development’s first floor.

“The (residential) market is so hot right now it’s ridiculous,” Ogrod said.

Ogrod said the 24- to 32-year-old demographic is flocking to South Knoxville. Proximity to downtown and the lower cost of housing make it a competitive market.

"Buyers looking to live near downtown in a home with a lot of character often choose South Knoxville as there are more mid-century homes in this area with a lot of style," Ogrod said.

Median home values in the 37920 zip code have increased by 7.2 percent over the past year and are predicted to rise another 3.9 percent within the next year, according to a Zillow report.

Home closings in South Knoxville went by 6.8 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to MLS data. In that same time frame, days on the market in South Knoxville decreased by 33 percent and sellers went from getting within 5 percent of the asking price to 3.6 percent.

"Six months into 2018 and we are already on track to surpass the number of sold houses in South Knoxville for 2017," she said.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brenna McDermott

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 www.eteda.org

Published July 6, 2018