An entire city block of Downtown Knoxville is up for sale. Five different companies want a chance to develop the prime real estate located between Henley and Locust streets.
The site was used as a Tennessee Supreme Court building, but it could soon be a hotel, housing, and more.
Knoxville's Industrial Development Board has narrowed down proposals for the old Supreme Court site to two companies: Gateway Knoxville, LLC and BNA Associates, LLC. IDB has spent the past month researching and interviewing the five companies that answered their Request for Proposal. IDB ranked Campus Crest Development, Metropolitan Plaza, LLC and Old Court, LLC as the bottom three candidates in that order.
"Rarely do you get to redevelop a full block of city property. We're going to try to take our time and look at a couple of options before we move forward," said the city's director of redevelopment, Bob Whetsel.
The IDB's evaluation committee chose Gateway Knoxville, LLC as their number one choice. The $84 million development would be a hotel, residential, retail, and restaurant development all rolled into one.
"This is an urban project, a high rise. Everything happens inside the building," said gateway developer, Jim Anthony.
Anthony is working with a company, Academic Privatization, that typically works with student housing to develop the project. Anthony said at this point everything is fluid, but their proposal would target student housing.
Board member Annette Winston raised concerns about student housing being used as "the gateway to Knoxville."
Anthony said they are targeting a more serious student crowd.
"When people think of student housing they think of what they experienced on campus or what they have seen in suburban campus housing," Anthony said. "That's not what this is."
Their plan also includes parking garages underneath the building and a pedestrian bridge that connects the hotel to the Knoxville Convention center. Gateway also wants to convert the Supreme Court building into a food court. Retail space would be available on Locust Street.
Anthony said they hope to be the company that builds the development but he's not making any promises. Anthony said Gateway would be financed by Harrison Street partners of Chicago.
"It's going to be contingent on getting it financed, that's everybody's contingency. Getting the project financed is everything," he said.
At Monday's IDB meeting, the group decided to do more research on Gateway and come up with a development agreement. They will report back at their next meeting on November 11.
Meanwhile, they are not writing off their second choice: BNA Associates. They have proposed "The Henley" that would feature 15,000 square feet of retail space, 228 apartments, and a parking garage.
"We want to go ahead and have that deal in line because we're on a very short time line based on the state's need for us to get this deal closed in November," said Whetsel.
The state has given the IDB a deadline of November 30th to sell the building. IDB plans on asking for extension because most board members agree it will be difficult to meet that deadline.
This isn't the first time the property has been up for development. In 2009, "Metropolitan Plaza" proposed by developer Nick Cazana, was halted by lack of financing.