Making "Magic"

Bring your own sense of creativity to the Carson

The Carson

713 S. Central
4 live/work condo shells
1,871 to 2,263 sq. ft.
$219,000 to $289,000
Kevin or Melinda Grimac: 356-4178

I wasn't able to make the Knox Heritage reception last week honoring Urban Renewal's long-time sponsor Kristopher Kendrick, but I'm glad he was. It was touch and go for a while, due to health issues. But the preservation patriarch proved as resilient as the buildings he's spent a lifetime restoring, wheeling into the Bijou to a standing ovation.

"Magic" was always his mantra, a word he made reality as he took buildings others had so casually cast off and transformed them into treasures. For most of his pioneer efforts, financing for downtown residential was tough to come by. Instead, he made creativity his currency. He salvaged bits and pieces of the buildings he couldn't save and incorporated them into the ones he could—often in imaginative, unexpected ways that made his projects unique.

Kristopher's work has gone far beyond bricks and mortar, though. Over the years, he offered a whole generation of Knoxvillians their first taste of urban living, and inspired others to take the plunge, following in the maverick developer's visionary footsteps. And they didn't have to buy a building to do it. In some of Kendrick's projects, the condo units were sold as shells, with buyers outfitting them in whatever ways fancy took them. There is, as far as Kendrick is concerned, no such thing as cookie-cutter development. He approached a building, a room, or a wall the way an artist approaches the canvas.

Downtown, these days, isn't exactly the blank slate it was 30 years ago. But there are still plenty of opportunities to be creative. Consider this building, The Carson, down on South Central. Edgy, industrial and a little outside the mainstream, it's just the sort of opportunity Kristopher would have jumped on 20 years ago. And with four live/work units being sold as customizable shells, it's exactly the same sort of collaborative effort between developer and purchaser that produced some of Kendrick's most memorable projects.

Even as is, The Carson is unique, carved into loft-style industrial townhouses, each with its own attached garage. Three even have private, landscaped back yards. Inside, the units all feature four 4x8 skylights overhead, exposed brick walls and original exposed steel trusses supporting tongue and groove roof decking reclaimed from vintage heavy timber. There are also mezzanine levels tucked underneath the 20- to 24-foot ceilings. And with all-new insulated windows, warehouse-style overhead lights and all-new utilities in each unit, all they need for final finish is a little vision and, maybe, a little magic.