Letter: Critical Mass

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

This is in response to Joe Sullivan’s thoughtful column on the proposed renovation into a hotel of the office building adjoining the Knoxville Convention Center. [“Heading Upscale,” Insights, April 4, 2013] I was especially interested as I was project designer for that three building complex—the Holiday Inn, the convention/ exhibition center and the office building—with consultation from the lead designer of Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

Drab does fairly describe it, to some extent, and the complex as built was something of a disappointment, at least for me. A significant chunk of the budget was spirited away partway through the design phases, and many anticipated enhancements—cantilevered endbays, interior loading area, projecting canopies at the office building windows, metal claddings at the columns, and numerous other such features and details—also vanished as a result. Streetwall retail facing Clinch Avenue never materialized. In the years since the World’s Fair, fabric panels designed to receive dramatic uplighting at the long west marquee were never replaced, electrical conduit was bolted here and there to the exteriors, and decades of deferred maintenance gradually resulted in a subtle patina of shabbiness. A pedestrian bridge had spanned Clinch Avenue, but all that remains is its support beam. Encouragingly, some issues have received attention in recent years.

There was no office building in the earliest schemes for the site, but powers-that-be decreed there would be one. The good news after all this time is that this plan to repurpose it as a hotel make great sense as a means, in conjunction with the resources of the Holiday Inn, to provide the critical mass of hotel amenity that is needed for a convention center headquarters hotel. The importance of an adjoining headquarters hotel to a convention center’s success has perhaps been evinced by the lack of one to date.

Kenneth M. Moffett, AIA

Knoxville

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