urban_renewal (2006-40)

Building up downtown’s periphery


by Matt Edens

After being dormant for decades, it seems like everything in and around downtown Knoxville is under construction. From the latest loft project to TDOT laying acres of asphalt, it’s orange barrels and hard hats as far as the eye can see. It can be maddening, at times, how much construction is going on. Trying to get to the 100 block of Gay Street the other day, I was detoured all over downtown by TDOT and then had to circle the block again because Gay Street was blocked off by a big-ass crane busy hoisting an HVAC unit to the top of the Commerce Block.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I appreciate most of the work that’s going on, particularly the long list of loft projects projected to add a couple hundred more people to downtown’s population. On the other hand, if even a tenth of the dire predictions made by perennial peak-oil crank Howard Kunstler the other night at the University Center are correct, TDOT’s big dig through the middle of town may be so many millions down the drain. And I’m forever mystified by the logic of Home Federal spending a couple hundred thousand to tear down a big, century-old brick building and then spend even more converting a sleek 1950s steel-and-glass into a crude knockoff of the building they just knocked over.

Still, most of the recent round of renovation and construction was long overdue. Not just the loft conversions, either; some of the most promising new construction in the center city is occurring outside downtown’s perimeter. As the finite supply of fixer-uppers starts to run out in neighborhoods like Fourth and Gill and Old North Knoxville, new homes have started cropping up. Currently, the second of three one-of-a kind custom homes is under construction on the former McCallie School property in Fourth and Gill, three more new houses are going up in the H-1 overlay section of Mechanicsville and, in Old North, there’s this brand-new bungalow on Grainger.

The second project by builders Greg Hyde and Deborah Duncan, this well-crafted Craftsman-style home blends well with its neighbors in the Brownlow section of Old North (including the house Hyde and Duncan built next door). And their attention to detail doesn’t end with the home’s finely appointed exterior: Behind that big front porch, this house has many of the same features you’d expect to find in a 100-year-old home: Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, nine-foot ceilings, arched doorways, stained glass and a lovely corner fireplace that comes complete with gas logs.

More “modern” upgrades include lots of closet space, a large kitchen complete with dishwasher and disposal, covered carport and rear deck overlooking a deep lot sloping down to First Creek. Taken together this craftsman combines the charm and character of old-house living with the comfort and convenience of a brand new home.

1325 Grainger Ave.