urban_renewal (2006-35)

Getting ahead of housing trends, or trying

Where Next?

by Matt Edens

"What’s the next neighborhood to pop?” The question came up the other day, during a message board discussion about buying and selling houses. The person who posed it had just been through a house-hunting expedition and was a little amazed at how much prices in Knoxville’s historic neighborhoods had appreciated. It’s remarkable, really, how far the center-city housing market has come (and don’t even get me started on downtown…). So it only seems natural to ask: What’s next?

I’m not entirely sure the answer is a neighborhood. Sure, higher prices are pushing the urban pioneer types out into new neighborhoods. Parkridge and Oakwood/Lincoln Park, in particular, have seen a surprising amount of investment of late. And Old Sevier, likewise, should see more investment as the city’s South Waterfront project moves forward.

But I doubt any of them will be retreads of Fourth and Gill and Old North’s revitalization. For starters, none of them quite have the housing stock that Old North or Fourth and Gill do. Originally blue-collar neighborhoods of small cottages and bungalows, there are few large, 2,500-sq.-ft. and up Victorians and colonials in Oakwood, Lincoln Park or Old Sevier (although if you can find one, odds are it’s a bargain). Parkridge has more of the bigger houses, but its East Knoxville location comes loaded with other perception issues. Size also matters. In terms of their number of houses, Oakwood, Lincoln Park and Parkridge are all considerably larger than either Old North or Fourth and Gill, and it’ll take all three neighborhoods a long time to lose their “transitional” feel.

Nor is the transition complete in Knoxville’s first generation of gentrified ’hoods. Private investors and homeowners have started building new houses on vacant lots in both Old North and Fourth and Gill (and I was delighted to discover, recently, that several are planned for the Old Mechanicsville historic district). Other pioneers, rather than heading out, have started moving into areas initially passed over, particularly streets such as Baxter and Anderson that lay in the transition zone between Fourth and Gill and Old North but outside either’s H-1 Overlay.

This house on Irwin Street is an excellent example. Recently renovated with new paint, plumbing, electrical and heat/air, the house has gorgeous hardwood floors and new tile in the kitchen and bathroom, all on a corner lot made all the more enjoyable by a big wrap-around front porch (there’s a screened-in back porch, too). But this place’s biggest bonus may be convenience. One of several dozen houses in a cluster tucked behind Broadway’s Three Rivers Market (formerly the Knoxville Food Co-Op) and all but around the corner from The Corner Lounge, you’re a block from a major bus route that runs downtown until 11:45 p.m. And, unlike downtown, you can even buy groceries without getting in your car—organic ones at that.

929 Irwin St.