In case you haven’t heard, there’s been a fight brewing between Bearden-area merchants and the Market Square District Association. Seems that Bearden—long used to selling art, antiques, and such to the upscale inhabitants of 37919—has been feeling a little forgotten lately as downtown emerges from its decades-long doldrums.
The squabbling is over downtown’s First Friday gallery walk. One of dozens of such events in cities around the country, First Friday’s been fairly successful at bringing folks downtown to browse, sip wine, and socialize. And downtown’s success may have been one factor spurring Bearden’s boutiques to form The District in Bearden and promote their own First Friday, hoping to siphon off some of that wine-sipping crowd.
I’m not about to pick sides—seems like there ought to be enough sophistication to go ’round. Still, it has been pretty interesting to watch from the sidelines, particularly when it comes to reading complaints that “downtown has everything,” as one Bearden business owner lamented in a blog quote the other day. What’s next, a proposal to put homeless housing in West Knoxville? It’s as if the world’s been turned upside down or something...
Okay, so there might be a bit of hyperbole in the quote about downtown having everything. Still, it’s remarkable how much downtown’s First Friday has grown in six years. Even more remarkable are the number of shops and galleries that have opened since the event took its first fledgling steps. Looking back, it’s apparent that the arts have truly been a development driver for downtown. And not just downtown proper, either—things are happening out towards Happy Holler, too, as the more bohemian businesses do what bohemians have always done and seek affordable, edgy space on the fringes.
Culture cozying up with commerce did produce some critics, of course. The Arts & Cultural Alliance’s lease on the Emporium produced a fair amount of skepticism. And the city’s sale of the Candy Factory, previously an arts center, even sparked some outright protest. Me, I’m still trying to figure out how art has suffered since the sale. The art scene is thriving, as is the city’s new Arts and Fine Crafts Center on Broadway.
And the building at the center of the controversy? After years of indifferent maintenance at the hands of the city, the circa 1916 Candy Factory appears to be doing just fine. Converted into condos, updated with balconies, and retaining features like hardwood floors, exposed brick, and city views, most of the units were snapped up long ago. And it’s easy to see why. Because, if you haven’t heard, “downtown has everything.” m
The Candy Factory
1060 Worlds Fair Park Drive
1,388 sq. ft.
2 bedroom, 1.5 bath
Contact: Jennifer Montgomery
Coldwell Banker: 693-1111