Locals aren't the only ones who have noticed downtown Knoxville's recent makeover. A Michigan company is looking to locate a beauty school downtown; based in East Lansing, the Douglas J Companies operate four Aveda-affiliated beauty schools across Michigan, most in downtown locations, and are currently in negotiations to buy the old Kress building on Gay Street.
An out-of-state company coming to town and plunking down almost $7 million to renovate a downtown building sounds like a win to me. But more than a few people online balked at the announcement, appalled by the $300,000 façade grant the Central Business Improvement District has approved as an incentive for.
Raised by a special assessment on downtown property, the CBID funds have long been used to pay for façade work downtown. It's only lately, however, that the amounts given out have grown large enough to catch the eye of casual observers. And downtown's success is the driving factor. Most of downtown's smaller buildings have been renovated, many with CBID façade grants as part of their financing mix. And, thanks to the renovations those façade grants helped fund, property values have climbed considerably, leading to larger CBID assessments and more money to plow back into larger projects. Downtown, in other words, is paying the freight for its own redevelopment.
As for whether or not the CBID should subsidize a beauty school, I can't answer that question, mostly because the money isn't really tied to the use or tenant. The beauty school could close tomorrow, but the renovation work would remain. And that's what the CBID is interested in: facilitating major, needed repairs to one of downtown's most distinctive buildings and, in the process, further boosting downtown property values.
A downtown beauty school isn't exactly unprecedented, though. I can recall tramping through the 300 Building at the corner of Summit Hill and Gay over a decade ago, before it became one of downtown's original loft conversions. There was a scattering of wigs and Styrofoam heads among the litter on one of the upper floors, testament to the many years it was home to the Tennessee School of Beauty.
Damaged by a fire in 2005, the building's new owners have gutted the structure, added an additional floor, and returned the building to residential use. Offering thoroughly modern living in a handsome historic shell, each of the 12 units features fireplaces, exposed brick, and kitchens chock full of custom cabinetry, stainless steel, and granite. Underneath, there is secure garage parking. The upper floors all offer spacious balconies, too, particularly the two top-floor units. And it's all just around the corner from both Market Square and the Old City, meaning there are plenty of places within walking distance to get dinner, drinks, or even a haircut. m
The 300 Building
300 S. Gay St.
Units from 1,254 to 2389 sq. ft.
2 bdrm/2 bath to 3 bdrm/3.5 bath
$415,000 to $989,000
For info: 304-0732