More than 400 new residences under construction in Downtown Knoxville

Downtown Knoxville is poised for more residents as the housing inventory there continues to grow.

There are 420 residential units moving dirt right now within the central business district, according to the Downtown Knoxville Alliance. That increase is about 25% of the current 1,657 residences both for rent and purchase.

When those units are completed, there will be more than 2,000 apartments and condominiums in the .67square-mile radius. That's not counting another 500 units that have been announced or are being planned downtown.

DKA is putting more of its resources behind attracting downtown residents, which will lead to more retail options and more downtown employment, DKA marketing director Robin Thomas said.

“Typically things like more services follow (residential),' Thomas said. 'If there’s places to live, they want to work there. It’s almost a tipping point when you start having a really vibrant residential community, which we already have.”

Residential projects spread across downtown

The residences in progress include a mix of new construction and renovation projects.

The largest is Church & Henley, a 237-unit, Class A apartment building being constructed in the parking lot of the former Tennessee State Supreme Court site in the southwest sector of downtown.

Developers Dover Signature Properties and Bristol Development Group are constructing the seven-story apartment community, which will include seven floor plans from 350-square-foot studios to 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom units. It will include amenities like an outdoor dog park, fitness studio, an interior courtyard with a pool and a subterranean parking garage. Church & Henley is set to be completed in Fall 2021.

Developer Leigh Burch of Terminus Real Estate and partners are constructing Stockyard Lofts in the Old City, which will include 152 rental units built on top of parking with retail space. The project is currently in excavation.

“Stockyard is, in my opinion, a catalyst type of project,' Burch said. 'It’s a game changer because it’s going to fill a void.”

That void is between downtown proper and the proposed baseball stadium in the Old City, which he and his partners are assuming will be built.

“Like a Marble Alley, Stockyard Lofts is going to go in and it’s going to be a product that people really covet,' he said.

The Overlook, a 10-unit condominium building by Joshua and Jessica Wright, will be completed this summer. Located at 600 W. Hill Ave. in southwest downtown, the units are 1,650-squarefoot shotgun-style homes with two balconies and 450 square feet of outdoor living space.

Other projects include City House on Vine Avenue, which will include seven units for purchase. The Cal Johnson Building is being renovated and will include nine units for rent, and there will be five units for rent at 112 S. Central St. in the Old City.

These units under construction represent another shift in the downtown landscape, much like when Marble Alley opened downtown in 2016.

“I wasn’t here when Marble Alley was built, but I imagine that was a big deal,' Thomas said. 'It’s new, it’s got the gym and the pool and hundreds of units. So now we’re not seeing one of those, we’re seeing two at the same time.'

Fast growth

Those more than 400 residences are the most Burch has seen come online at one time in his 20 years working downtown. But there's more competition than just within the limits of downtown.

New housing units on the South Knoxville riverfront have also put downward pressure on rents the last six to nine months, he said.

'Real estate is about supply and demand. So if you’re delivering a project and there are other projects delivering, it’s generally not a good thing,' Burch said. 'But we’re really confident in Stockyard Lofts.” He anticipates the market will right itself; when Marble Alley opened it had a temporary impact on his Sterchi Lofts. Ultimately, he said, its opening led to an increase in the people who wanted to become downtown residents. “It was actually a very positive event for downtown because it brought in a whole new demographic from what we were used to seeing,' Burch said. 'We had a lot of trailblazer-type people, mostly younger people, young professionals. Marble Alley came on the market and it brought on this whole new group of people that I didn’t realize they were going to be interested in moving downtown.”

Turning resources to downtown living

DKA, funded by property owners within the Central Business Improvement District, is focusing more of its resources on promoting downtown living in order to prepare for the new inventory coming online and to help fill those units with residents.

It has launched a 'living downtown' section of its website with more content for residents and a guide to 50 primary apartment and condo properties in the downtown area. The list is sortable by the area of downtown and whether residences are for sale or lease.

The guide includes contact information for each property and the number of total units inside each property, but does not track available units. Thomas said DKA hopes this serves as a gateway for people searching for potential places to live downtown.

Population growth

The potential influx of downtown residents will likely be followed by more living amenities, Thomas said.

According to DKA data, 28 new businesses opened or announced in 2019; 22 in 2018; and 17 in 2017. Those businesses opened in more than just Market Square. Areas north of Summit Hill Drive experienced significant growth, as did the south end of Gay Street. More than 600 hotel rooms have opened in the past three years as well.

'The amenities – people I think forget – we’ve got a full service pharmacy, we’ve got a dry cleaners, we’ve got a shoe repair, we’ve got florists, wine stores, farmer’s market,' Thomas said. 'And I continue to have people say, ‘Where do you get your groceries?' And I don’t want to be sarcastic, but I get them the same place everybody else gets them. You do go to the grocery store.”

The DKA uses 2010 Census data to estimate that 1.6 people live in each downtown household, meaning Knoxville's downtown population will hit more than 3,300 once these 420 units become available.

If growth stays at the same rate, the downtown population could hit about 4,000 by the end of 2021.

The DKA will also launch more content on working in the district; the state estimates 22,000 employees work downtown. “You get employees down here, they want to live where they can walk, they want restaurants, they want shops,' Thomas said. 'You have to have them all.”

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel  

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Published March 13, 2020