“Infill” Development

Finding restored houses just outside Knoxville’s historic districts

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21114 Alexander Street

1,268 sq. ft. 3 bdrm, 1.5 bath $139,900 Contact: Leslie Terry Owner: 438-4870

In redevelopment parlance, “infill” typically refers to new buildings built on vacant lots amid older ones. Generally occurring at a late stage in a neighborhood’s revitalization, it’s a good sign that the area has matured and stabilized. “Infill,” in that regard, is also an indication that the neighborhood is running low on fixer-uppers. To see some examples, trek out to Fourth and Gill and look at the new homes at the corner of Gratz and Lovenia, along Grainger Avenue in Old North Knoxville, or Deaderick Avenue in Mechanicsville. More importantly, these are all privately developed homes, sold on the open market to buyers who could have easily afforded to live elsewhere—another sure sign that the neighborhoods they’re in have returned to middle-class roots.

But, as the individual neighborhoods around downtown continue to revitalize and mature, another type of “infill” occurs. Plotted on the map, the historic districts of Old North Knoxville, Fourth and Gill, and Old Mechanicsville are each distinct entities (as is Park City, over on the east side). On the ground, however, the distinctions are less cut and dried. There are a lot of houses, most as old and arguably as historic, just outside the neatly drawn boundaries of the historic districts. There are clusters along Baxter and Hinton avenues, west of Central, a forlorn few overlooking the backside of the cemetery from Tyson Street or the long row of shotguns at the corner of Dameron and Wray.

The biggest concentration of these historic unofficially historic homes, however, has to be the unclaimed middle ground where Old North and Fourth and Gill meet. Irwin, Alexander, Baxter, Stewart, and Folsom: The half dozen or so streets tucked behind the northwest corner of Central and Broadway contain scores of homes that easily compare to their officially “historic” cousins just across Broadway or merely up the hill.

Consider, for instance, this lovely cottage a block off Central on Alexander, right around the corner from rapidly revitalizing Happy Holler. With refinished hardwood floors, original wood trim in excellent condition and two fireplaces with the original mantles restored and refinished, who’s to say it’s not historic? The renovation compares to anything along Scott or Luttrell, too: a new roof and windows, full insulation, a completely remodeled kitchen with Whirlpool stainless appliances, and a brand new bath with garden tub and separate shower. There’s also a sunroom/breakfast room and that big front porch.

All in all, it’s a fine example of the sort of “infill” that will continue to occur as the revitalization of Knoxville’s historic districts spill over their official boundaries and fill in the blanks between.

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