(WBIR - Knoxville) Developer Joe Petre has a vision to transform old parking lots once used for Knoxville's Regas Restaurant into a place people will live, work, and shop.
"We've got one of the most iconic corners in all of Knoxville because of Regas Restaurant having been there 80-plus years," said Petre.
Petre is president of Conversion Properties and began working on the project for about a year. The plan calls for 100 condominiums to sell for residential use and 20,000 square feet of retail development on the ground floor.
"We think of Downtown Knoxville as the hub in the middle of a 16 county region. Really, for the first time in our country, people are moving back to the urban environment instead of out into the suburbs," said Petre. "That makes this an exciting time, but this is also a rare chance to build something new for sale in the downtown area."
While the project uses the Regas name, it will not involve the actual building that housed the restaurant until it closed in 2010. The old Regas building is already being renovated for use by several non-profit organizations.
While much downtown revitalization focuses on renovating old buildings, Petre said the empty parking lots that extend a full block along Depot Avenue present a rare chance to start from scratch in the heart of the city.
"Ultimately, this is a ground-up project. It's part of a three-block area that's really expanding the boundaries of downtown Knoxville with other developers having great projects in the same area," said Petre.
Petre said the project will cost in excess of $30 million. The average price of the condos is expected to be around $380,000. The price can range from $189,000 to $1 million depending on the desired size and location of the unit.
If plans go perfectly, construction could begin by spring of 2016. Ultimately, the development could fill a vacant parking lot as well as a void in the Knoxville real estate market.
"There is an absolute pent up demand in downtown Knoxville for good condominium space that you can actually buy," said Petre.