This week I want to thank the Wamp for Governor campaign for reminding me just how quickly the worm has turned for downtown Knoxville. Seems like it was only a few years ago that the usual chorus of county-dwelling downtown naysayers were clucking their tongues when Bill Haslam coughed up a couple million of his own cash towards the new movie theater on Gay Street. Back then, the refrain was that the mayor’s investment was a mark of desperation, driven by a failure to find some suckers willing to invest in a theater so obviously doomed (After all, why, oh why would anyone go downtown for movies what with Regal building a cinema at the Nirvana otherwise known as Turkey Creek?)
Fast forward a few years, and there’s still a distinct odor of flop-sweat emanating from the downtown cinema. Only, this time, it comes courtesy of the Wamp campaign. Last week the congressman’s campaign alleged that, contrary to conventional West-Knox wisdom, Haslam wasn’t throwing money down the bottomless hole of downtown development. As Wamp would have it, the mayor’s million-dollar investment wasn’t a bailout; it was a sweetheart deal.
Funny how hindsight can often transform a shaky investment into a sure thing.
Still, as much as I admire Haslam and what he’s accomplished downtown, I’ll concede that his investment in the cinema wasn’t exactly the huge gamble his supporters would have. I mean, while he would probably have missed the $2 million if he lost it, it wouldn’t have meant financial ruin (the political hit would have meant more—Wamp would have no doubt loved to hang a failed movie theater around the mayor’s neck).
When it comes to gambling on downtown, the real heroes are the homeowners and small business owners who’ve gone “all in.” They’re the ones who’ve truly staked their futures on the continued success of downtown Knoxville. And, so far, they’ve done all right—even in the midst of a major economic downturn that has sent sales-tax receipts tumbling countywide, they’ve risen sharply downtown.
And it’s not too late to invest, even in on of the earliest epicenters of downtown’s residential revival, Gay Street’s 100 Block. This condo in the Commerce Lofts comes standard all the standard accoutrements of luxury downtown living: exposed brick, high ceilings, and a gourmet kitchen packed full of granite and stainless steel.
Oh, and if you’re an oil tycoon with money to burn, did I mention the two gas fireplaces? m
Commerce Lofts, Unit 205
122 S. Gay St.
2,002 sq. ft.
2 bdrm/2.5 bath
Contact: Jennifer Montgomery
Coldwell Banker: 693-1111