New condos, retail part of planned revitalization of downtown's Jackson Avenue

The Southeastern Glass Building at the corner of Jackson and Broadway is undergoing a major makeover.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

The Southeastern Glass Building at the corner of Jackson and Broadway is undergoing a major makeover.

"I think that this is the next thing ... just this whole area."

Joe Petre

The revival of the Southeastern glass building

Photo with no caption

A burned-out warehouse shell is hardly a promising catalyst for redevelopment, but it’s not preventing the rebirth of a corridor on the edge of downtown Knoxville.

It’s been three years since the McClung warehouses, on West Jackson Avenue, went up in flames. A judge’s recent ruling may pave the way for someone new to take control of the devastated buildings, but the street’s surrounding property owners aren’t waiting for that to happen.

Instead, the stretch of Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Gay Street already is seeing a significant rehabilitation take shape, with construction work ongoing at two buildings and other projects in the works.

The most prominent example is the Southeastern Glass building, a 1920s-era structure that fits neatly into the acute angle formed by the Broadway-Jackson interchange. A development group led by Joe Petre bought the building for $625,000 in 2007 and last year began a renovation that includes the addition of a sixth floor on top of the property.

During a recent tour of the project — which is slated to include 15 condos and up to four commercial spaces — Petre stood on the outdoor patio of one of the upper-floor units and pointed out nearby landmarks: the TVA Towers, the Lincoln Memorial University law school and the L&N Building.

His point was that the building, and the Jackson corridor itself, is close to gathering places like Market Square, World’s Fair Park or the University of Tennessee campus.

“You’re a five-minute bike ride to the Hill,” he said.

Twelve of the 15 residential units will have an outdoor patio or courtyard, and the building will offer striking urban scenery, ranging from skyline scenes to railroad tracks and even units that look out onto a shadowy view of the columns under the Broadway viaduct.

Petre acknowledged that every unit won’t appeal to every person, but he highlighted amenities such as walk-in closets in most condos and an abundance of windows.

“I think that this is the next thing … just this whole area,” he said.

The Southeastern Glass building isn’t the only one getting a makeover, though. Just up the street is a roofless structure owned by local architects John Sanders and Brandon Pace, who are converting the building into a new home for Sanders Pace Architecture and two other office spaces.

“We hope to move in in July,” Sanders said in a recent interview. “We hope to be done mid-June. ... It’s going to be fast.”

Sanders is also part of an LLC that owns the former Budget Truck Rental shop at the corner of Jackson and Broadway, across from the Southeastern Glass building. Budget has now moved out of that property, and Sanders indicated that possibilities for the site include a restaurant or boutique shop.

Jackson Avenue occupies a strategic location, intersecting Gay Street just north of the 100 block, where the city is in the midst of a street overhaul that will cost more than $4.2 million. Jackson serves as a key link between Gay Street and the Old City, and construction work is planned all along that span.

A sale is pending at the former Volunteer Ministry Center building at the corner of Jackson and Gay Street, and Petre, who listed the property for Sperry Van Ness|R.M. Moore, has said it would be converted to residential and retail space.

Meanwhile, Shawn and Laura Lyke— the co-owners of a Maryville manufacturing company — last year bought a former antique market at 111 E. Jackson, next to Patrick Sullivan’s, and are planning a conversion to office and retail space.

The private sector isn’t the only contributor, though. The Southeastern Glass project got a tax-increment financing incentive, and city redevelopment director Bob Whetsel said a project to rebuild the Jackson Avenue ramps, at Gay Street, is in the environmental clearance phase.

Whetsel indicated the city would like Jackson Avenue to become a great connector between Broadway and Gay Street.

“So we’d like to see a street that looks right and works right … evolve over the next few years,” he said.

Business writer Josh Flory may be reached at 865-342-6994.

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Comments » 6

rcathey writes:

It's encouraging that things are starting to happen beyond the downtown core and the Old City. The Jackson Avenue corridor seems to be where the action is right now.

ThinkTwice writes:

I've always loved that old Southeastern Glass building, but I don't think I'd want a condo overlooking the railroad tracks, plus the noise from Broadway. I am glad that it's finally being redeveloped, though.

LDanvers writes:

Ah, more overpriced living space being promoted as a part of the downtown revival! The only problem with that idea is that this Southeastern Glass space is on the periphery of what is considered downtown and is bordered on areas where I wouldn't want to walk, let alone live, without carrying my weapon in its holster.

What are they doing about the train tracks that run right behind that property? Are they going to create their own version of a DMZ to keep the residents safe from our growing transient population who use the train tracks to move around? How about the folks on the other side of the bridge who hang out and who might look at the residences as a quick way to snatch and grab to make a few bucks?

Not picking on the less fortunate who are forced to make due, but while you can spin this anyway you want to sell living space, it is still an area that I wouldn't want my UT-attending daughter to live.

musicman writes:

Is that all? Go to Google and search for "Cameron Harbor Chattanooga". Knox can't touch all of Chatt's approved developments. $80million Cameron Harbor, and that's only for the first phase. Mission On Main shopping plaza. New hotels all over the city. The Shoppes at Mountain View shopping center. Several new high density apartment complexes. And now developers are hitting parts of Ooltewah that's already the City of Chatt as well as soon to be annexed East Brainerd where there are new developments amd one includes yet another shopping center. Oh and one last thing, the huge business center near the airport. Don't keep your belts too tight Knoxvillians, Chatt already has you crushed area wise and now we're on our way to having a higher population.

(p.s. I'm a former Knox resident who hated it there. I love Chatt waaaay better and will die here.)

And yes, everything I said matters greatly.

rcathey writes:

in response to rcathey:

It's encouraging that things are starting to happen beyond the downtown core and the Old City. The Jackson Avenue corridor seems to be where the action is right now.

Since this story was posted, the Southeastern Glass Building has opened for tours and units are now selling. (Disclosure: I do some work for SEG.)

jryan writes:

I'm embarassed for you, 'musicman.' I commend Chattanooga for all of the work its done in revitalizing its urban core. I am excited by news about increased development and housing there as well. What I don't understand it your 'anything you can do I can do better' attitude. Grow up and cheer on Knoxville for the efforts its made. Yes, we may be 20 years behind you, but we're getting on the right tracks as well.

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