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Anthropologie coming to Knoxville not dependent on street closure

10:52 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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For the past few weeks, a local developer has made the case that for a national retail chain to set up a new shop in west Knoxville, the company needed the city to shut down a small street.

Other businesses in the area doubted that claim, and they argued closing off traffic on Ben Atchley would hurt their business.

Tuesday, a representative from Anthropologie said the store will open its doors in Bearden, regardless of what happens to the road.

In an emailed statement to WBIR, Anthropologie's Sarah Goodstein said:

"We are delighted to become part of Knoxville's vibrant community of independent merchants. Anthropologie's excitement about coming to Knoxville is not dependent on any decisions regarding Ben Atchley Street."

Local developer Tony Cappiello suggested for weeks that Anthropologie would pull out of the deal if the city failed to close Ben Atchley Street. He said the announcement now represents a compromise.

"I'm not speaking on their behalf, but I don't think they want to be involved in controversy, and they want to be in Knoxville. It's taken a lot of effort, a lot of compromise on my part to get them here, and to make sure that they stay here," he said.

"So I'm thrilled about that. That commitment to Knoxville and to my development is excellent, and it's well-received."

For the businesses who opposed the street closure, Tuesday marked a "win." Attorney John King represents several property owners in the area.

"When the alternatives being suggested no longer start with the condition that Ben Atchely Street has to closed, then I think our discussions, perhaps, will bear more fruit than they have to this point," King said.

"My clients are all in support of Anthropologie coming to Knoxville and coming to this particular site. Their problem has been, while they want to have and want to support Anthropologie, and believe it will be good for them and the Bearden community, they did not want the street closed, which had a detrimental effect on their properties."

However, the fate of Ben Atchley Street is still uncertain. Tuesday night, the Knoxville City Council granted Cappiello a two-week postponement on any discussion and decision regarding the street closure.

Cappiello would still like to see the street converted into parking space for his multiple development projects.

"I need to make sure that the parking and the access is there and available to my tenants that I'm going to be placing there," he said. "Not only for Anthropologie but for all the tenants."

King said his clients still have concerns about the street, which is currently public property.

"We don't think that's good public policy, to take public property and turn it over to a private individual for their private use and their private gain."

Cappiello plans to continue discussions with his business neighbors, and hopes to continue to compromise.

"I'm in favor of 'A high tide rises all boats,' so I want to come up with something that will benefit both the property that I'm investing in and for the people that have been there."

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