Knoxville — A 120-year-old downtown building once owned by Knoxville's first black millionaire is set to be developed into a mix of apartments and retail space.
Owner JED Corp. envisions two upper floors of apartments with a ground floor restaurant at the long empty and deteriorating Cal Johnson Building at 301 State St. Renovation is expected to cost at least $4.6 million, records show.
Work would start soon and be done by late fall or early winter of next year.
Conversion Properties Inc. would develop the former warehouse, records show.
Knoxville City Council was set Tuesday night to give the Industrial Development Board approval to grant a financing plan called a PILOT or payment in lieu of taxes. The project likely wouldn't advance without such help, records show.
The 1898 building has been on Knox Heritage's Fragile 15 list of endangered and neglected properties. It's one of the last buildings of the era in the neighborhood.
Cal Johnson, a former slave, was a businessman and gambler who thrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He died in 1925 at age 80.
In his life he ran saloons downtown and a horseraciing track in East Knoxville at a site that today retains the name Speedway Circle.
The State Street building consists of 14,868 square feet on three floors. Two years ago City Council at Mayor Madeline Rogero's urging granted historic overlay status to the site to preserve its integrity.
Plans call for eight apartments, four on each of the top two floors, plus downtown retail space, likely a restaurant. The building sits across from the Marble Alley apartment complex.
Renovation work will include a new storefront, new windows, replacement trim work where needed and retention of the outside metal fire escape as a decorative feature, plans state.
JED Corp. owner Jed Dance previously objected to the city giving the building historic overlay status, arguing he had owned it for years with firm plans to keep it.
Documents show the PILOT would remain in force up to 15 years.
The agreement calls for an annual aggregate payment of no less than $2,030 to the city and $1,546 to the city, according to records. Those are the current annual taxes for the property.