And mocked, relentlessly.
There's definitely a buzz downtown these days. And I don't just mean a certain hipster architect, either. Two different nights this past week, I nearly wound up a hood ornament on a car cruising down Gay Street. And if I had, it would have been totally my fault, seeing how I simply stepped off the curb without even thinking to look. Old habits die hard. Here's hoping none of downtown's other old-timers end up a crosswalk casualty before we get adjusted to the notion of actual traffic on Gay Street after 5:00.
Then there's the fact that, due to the crowd, I had a hard time taking a picture of this place on Market Square. Granted, it was during the Dogwood Arts Festival, but even then I can recall years past when the crowds were sparse and seemed somewhat ill at ease with the whole idea of being downtown. And the feeling was mutual—back in the day, Dogwood was not something downtowners did. It was something they endured. And mocked, relentlessly.
It looks as if there's been a reconciliation of late. The arts festival has gotten a little artier and funkier, becoming a better fit for downtown. And downtowners have begun, perhaps a little begrudgingly, to accept that for downtown to be successful some people from the suburbs must inevitably show up. And I think Sundown in the City deserves a lot of credit for getting the two sides reacquainted. From a single show in 1997, the free concert series has grown into a spring-and-summer tradition that draws thousands of people downtown every Thursday.
And now, as the series kicks off a new season on Market Square, what could be better than a box seat? This building on the west side of Market Square, after years as an art gallery, has long been a fixture on the square—as well as one of my favorites, due to details like the Craftsman-style windows and the huge leaded transom over the storefront. And it's gotten a major makeover of late. In addition to redoing the first floor for retail—now the furniture and décor annex of Bliss, one of the Square's new fixtures—a new owner has added second-floor office space (already occupied by an architecture firm) and three apartments above that—two on the third floor and the other in a fourth-floor penthouse at the back of the building.
The apartments are no afterthought, either. In fit and finish they compare favorably to not just anything downtown, but to some of the better custom homes being built in places like Sequoyah Hills. In addition to original features like heart pine floors and bare brick, the developer took the building's Craftsman detailing as a starting point and decided to give the apartments a full-blown Bungalow treatment, with the living rooms wainscoted up to chair-rail height, craftsman wood-panel doors and hammered copper hardware. There are even Craftsman-style columns framing the kitchen island in each unit (along with granite tops, IKEA cabinets and stainless steel appliances). But the best part of these "bungalows" may just be their "porches." All three units have access to roof decks (shared for the third floor units, private for the penthouse). And did I mention that the "yard" has plenty of space to invite, oh, 5,000 friends over for a few beers, a cookout and a jam session?