(WBIR-Knoxville) It's a section of downtown that can be seen from the interstate, and now a local barbecue joint hopes to expand into what some call the creative corridor.
Jackson Avenue is best known for the former McClung Warehouses, which were heavily damaged by two fires and recently torn down, and the founder of Sweet P's BBQ Soul House said he hopes to open up shop just down the street.
"We really have wanted to be downtown for a number of years but we had a really hard time finding the right location," said Chris Ford, the restaurant's founder. "We wanted a standalone building so we could put our smokers outside so that was key. And we did not want to be on Market Square."
Ford has been dishing out southern food at the South Knoxville restaurant, located on Maryville Pike, since 2009.
"Good barbecue places I think are best if they are off the beaten track and this place is certainly off the beat track," said Ford.
Boats and calm marina water set the backdrop to Sweet P's BBQ Soul House, where two smokers sit outside near the outdoor deck.
"Barbecue goes really well with lake life," said Ford.
Now, Ford said he hopes to test out city life.
"There's really nothing like us downtown. Our price point is going to be great, our quick service for people at lunch, especially for people working downtown," explained Ford.
Dewhirst Properties owns the building and Ford plans to lease the property on the south side of Jackson Avenue.
"That building is going to have a really incredible outdoor space that we're really excited about. It's out back, it's private, we're going to have as many seats outside as we do inside, it's going to be really cool," explained Ford.
"We are very pleased. This is an area that needs some more help and an area that we are very excited about for the future," said Rick Emmett, downtown coordinator with the City of Knoxville. "It just shows there's more interest in this area."
Emmett said the proposed plans match a growing need in the area.
"We have so many residential population in this area, and not that many restaurants and it's just going to be a cool transition," said Emmett. "Plus I've had so many friends of mine say we need a barbecue place downtown."
The city owns the entire north side of Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Gay Street, including the long parking lot that sits across from where Sweet P's would be.
"The city had the foresight to buy this parking lot many years ago and it's just been really helpful to all this development, from the new restaurant coming in to the new apartments underneath, and frankly to add the collection of the property we just acquired," said Emmett.
That property is the former McClung Warehouses, which were long considered an eyesore. With a possible new addition to the historic area, Emmett expects further revitalization.
"There are some folks who would like to brand it the creative corridor. We have a lot of artists, creative folks here, a lot of architects, musicians, so we think that's a pretty good idea and we would like to see that happen in the future and try to make this transition into the Old City and just have this be a really neat place to be," explained Emmett.
While crews continue to demolish the McClung buildings, the city is gearing up for a public meeting.
"On April 3rd there will be a public meeting at the Southern Depot to talk about ideas for the 500 block of Jackson Avenue, and what should go there, whether it's restaurants, more living spaces, commercial retail spaces, there are lots of possibilities," said Emmett.
"That whole block, with what Dewhirst is doing, we're really trying to fall in line, with keeping it really legit to the original building and just having that kind of industrial feel.
The Downtown Design Review Board will meet on Sweet P's proposal on Wednesday, March 19th.