With the long-awaited opening of the S&W Grand on Gay Street, Knoxville has a lot to be proud of. Ten years ago, with the old cafeteria scheduled for demolition as part of the same sprawling Justice Center project that gouged a giant, still-unfilled hole over on State Street, I secretly concluded it was a goner.
There are times, I'll concede, that I underestimate Knoxville. And the city certainly never ceases to surprise me. I can't add much more to the kudos handed round in wake of the S&W's revival. But I will say this, Knoxville, what are you gonna do for an encore?
Another project by John Craig, one of the developers responsible for the S&W's rebirth, points towards a possibility. Craig's company, Segundo Properties, has been active in several of the neighborhoods around downtown. Long before the S&W, he was busy rehabbing properties in the Brownlow portion of Old North, in Parkridge, and even in Fort Sanders.
You heard that right—Fort Sanders, perhaps the toughest place for preservationists in all of Knoxville. But, now that the S&W's been saved, almost anything seems doable, doesn't it? And doing preservation-style development in Fort Sanders isn't as impossible as it sounds.
Here's what Craig said about it last week: "While the big apartment complexes have taken some of the charm, they have also helped standardize the market. Most places are now rented at a rate per bed, which cuts down on crowding six kids into a three-bedroom. It has also forced some properties to upgrade in order to compete. Parents also now regularly co-sign leases, ensuring that repairs can be charged back to them... Much of the renovation activity is actually lowering the number of units and making them into three- and four-bedroom flats."
Craig knows what he's talking about. He's done pretty well with several properties at the corner of James Agee Street and Highland Avenue, taking two Victorians cut up into four apartments back in the '60s down to two units each. And this place, around the corner on James Agee, was originally built as a duplex, back in the early '30s. Through a minor miracle, or the benign indifference of a previous owner, it's soldiered on some 70 years with its original hardwood floors and trim amazingly intact, and now Craig's added upgrades like air conditioning and a washer/dryer in each unit.
One-half of the duplex is currently available for lease, a handsome home that's as convenient to downtown as it is to the university. Or, if you're looking for more of a challenge, find yourself a Fort Sanders fixer-upper and do something to revitalize the Fort—and downtown. As with the S&W, Craig can show you how it's done. m
307/309 James Agee St.
3 bdrm/1.5 bath
Contact: John Craig