Downtown Condo Lives Like a House

History Lesson: At the beginning of the 20th century, most of what's now considered downtown was residential.

The Cunningham

707 Market Street / 950 square feet / 2 bedroom, 1 bath / $177,600 / Contact: Jennifer Montgomery, Coldwell Banker (693-1111)

Barely a decade ago, residential real estate was a relatively rare commodity in downtown Knoxville. Not anymore. A simple search of Realtor.com reveals over 70 homes for sale within downtown's 37902 zip code. Sure, that number's still small compared to most suburban zip codes, but it's also impressive considering that, circa 2000, there were only 72 owner-occupied housing units in all of downtown.

Downtown living has come a long way over the last decade. With the exception of the newly-built Residences at Market Square, almost all the new housing units downtown can be attributed to the loft conversion of old warehouse, retail and, increasingly, office space. The only other significant cluster of new condos, over at Volunteer Landing, don't count in either of the above totals, since they're in a different census tract and zip code from downtown proper.

Yet, despite its recent renaissance, downtown residential isn't without precedent in Knoxville's past. At the beginning of the 20th century, most of what's now considered downtown was residential: upscale west of Market Street and decidedly downscale on the slopes below State. Much of it, surprisingly, was single family. Indeed, single-family homes still stood on the south end of Gay Street until the late 1920s (when one was moved out to Speedway Circle to make way for the Andrew Johnson Hotel).

Outside downtown, Knoxville's "urban" neighborhoods are mostly filled with single-family homes. Many were subsequently subdivided into apartments. But, in an ironic twist, the middle- and upper-income folks moving back in—seeking a denser, more urban lifestyle—tend to return them back to single family, reducing density.

Traditional urban residential, the brownstones and row houses that typify bigger cities such as Brooklyn and Baltimore, are rather unusual in Knoxville. The city's core had barely developed the density to start building such housing when suburbia took hold and the density drained away. And that means this place in Market Street's Cunningham Building represents a rare commodity in Knoxville: a condo that combines the convenience of living downtown with the historic charm more commonly found in one of the neighborhoods just outside it. How many lofts, after all, feature Victorian style fireplaces with vintage tile and the original cast iron grate? How about ladderback doors? Or a bay window and pocket doors? This condo lives like a house in Fourth and Gill, one that just happens to be a block off Gay Street.


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