Since Sundown

New Center-City Reality Also Includes New Houses

It's coming up on 12 years since the inaugural "Sundown in the City" drew some 2,000 people to the Market Square for a V-Roys show. It was a strange night, certainly the most people I'd ever seen on the Square after dark—or even before dark. But against the Square's backdrop of predominantly empty storefronts and dark upper stories, "it wasn't enough to completely dispel the ghost-town vibe of the center city," as Jesse Mayshark observed in last week's Citybeat on the subject.

It did feel "like a promise of what downtown could be," however. I recall Jesse bringing the subject up at the time, either on the Square or later when some off us slipped onto the Arnstein Building's roof to marvel at the spectacle: A crowd. On Market Square. After dark. May sound mundane now, but a mere decade ago there was something almost subversive about even a small crowd on the Square, maybe even revolutionary. And perhaps it's just coincidence that, within a few short years, downtown would successfully fight off attempts to transform it into a tourist-oriented shopping mall, plop down an equally tourist-oriented planetarium, or turn one of its largest blocks into a brand new jail.

Today, with almost all its buildings occupied or in the midst of renovation, Market Square is vastly different from what it was a dozen years ago. And downtown is vastly different, too—both from what it was and what it could have become. There are tourists, sure, but it's home to hundreds of condo and apartment dwellers. It's become a community in its own right and a more a gathering place for the larger community than it has been in a generation.

And it's not just the Square that's shaken off that "ghost town" vibe. Who would have thought, little more than a decade ago, that there'd be not just one, but two vegetarian eateries on North Central? Or that quarter-million-dollar homes would become commonplace in historic 'hoods like Old North, Fourth and Gill, or even Parkridge?

And then there are places like this one in Fourth and Gill—a new home built to blend in with the old, it's chock full of features that would seem fancy even in Farragut: rosewood, cherry, and mahogany floors and trim; a reverse-osmosis filtration system; commercial Viking six-burner gas range; four-jet shower and jacuzzi tub; even towel warmers.

And that's what is truly amazing about the city center's transformation in the dozen years since Sundown. It's not that crowds came to concerts or tourists came to shop. It's that so many people have settled in to stay. m

803 Gratz St.

3,114 sq. ft.

3 bdrms/3.5 bath

$399,000

Contact: Jessica Rodocker

Horizon Realty: 523-9550

www.knoxvillager.com