Taking Up Residence in Newcomer's Department Store

"Retail follows rooftops" is a reliable old mantra in the development trade. It's common sense, really. People need food to eat, clothes to wear, and tchotchkes to clutter up their homes. And chances are they don't want to go too far to get them. No wonder that once the subdivision goes up, the shopping center is sure to follow. It's a pattern that's repeated itself over and over as the city has sprawled ever outward.

Lately, though, the paradigm's been pulling double duty. The recent emphasis on residential development downtown isn't so much a tacit admission that its retail days were over as it is a belated realization that the center city's residential base had shrunk significantly. But now that increasing numbers of middle- and upper-income residents have piled into downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, long-vacant storefronts are filling up. (And, if Happy Holler is any indication, the phenomenon's not confined to downtown, either.)

In fact, downtown Knoxville has succeeded to the point that even national retailers are starting to notice. Urban Outfitters, a multinational chain with more than 150 stores worldwide, is currently finalizing the lease on the first two floors of the Arnstein Building, a former department store that was Knoxville's first iron-framed "skyscraper." Meanwhile, KUB is considering returning the ground floor of the old Miller's Building to retail.

Selling clothing and housewares aimed at hip twentysomethings, Urban Outfitters is a far cry from a true department store, however. And the same is true for even the wider range of offerings at Gay Street's Mast General Store. But, seeing as department stores aren't doing terribly well as a general proposition, downtown may never be the full-service shopping hub it once was.

It is, however, well on its way to becoming a lively place that mixes offices, retail, and residential rooftops. Gay Street's Gallery Lofts even manages to do all three under the same roof. Mast General occupies the basement and first floor; there are offices above and condos on the top two floors of what was originally Newcomer's Department Store.

These two units on the building's top floor both come equipped with all the standard downtown loft features: hardwood floors, exposed brick, exposed beams and high ceilings (from 15 feet to 12 feet, following the slope of the roof), and high-end finishes such as slate tile in the baths and stainless steel appliances and granite tops in the kitchens. But what really sets these condos apart is the rooftop. Both feature rooftop penthouses and decks with stunning views. Unit 404 also has a large rear balcony above the Promenade. m

The Gallery Lofts

Units 404 & 407

3,557 sq. ft. & 1,593 sq. ft.

3 bdrm/bath & 2 bdrm/1 bath

$824,500 & $319,000

(#404 also available for lease)

Contact: Kimberly Dixon Hamilton

Downtown Realty