At Church and State

The Elliott and Glencoe buildings are to get the condo treatment

Two more of downtown Knoxville's empty buildings may soon find new leases on life—as well as condo-dwellers.

The Elliott Hotel, on the corner of Church Avenue and State Street, at 201 Church Street, and the adjacent Glencoe Building, at 615 State, were purchased in October by Benchmark Development LLC from the Monday family for $1 million. Jim Wakefield, a principal at Benchmark, says the company plans on creating condos in both buildings, beginning with the Elliott. A demolition permit has been obtained, which Wakefield says is being used to secure the building—replace windows and make it weather-tight. But until he consults with his architect on design plans, Wakefield says he won't know how many condo units will be in the buildings or how much they'll cost.

Wakefield (who declined to name other partners in the limited-liability corporation) owns Wakefield Corporation, a local contractor in business since 1986, working on new construction projects such as the East Tennessee History Center and the Neyland Thompson Sports Center. The company has also done work on older buildings such as the Holston on Gay Street, though the Elliott and Glencoe will be Wakefield's first experience at redeveloping historical buildings himself, he says.

"We've been talking with historical people because this is an historical building," Wakefield says.

Both the Elliott and the Glencoe were listed on Knox Heritage's 2007 "Fragile Fifteen" of endangered historical buildings. Designed in a Neo-classical style, the buildings were built a year apart—the Glencoe in 1906 and the Elliott in 1907. Both built of light brick, they share some design elements, and have always served as residential buildings, though the Elliottt occasionally included basement-level businesses, once including a restaurant. The Glencoe, designed by architect Albert Gredig, and sited directly opposite the First Presbyterian Church, features two half-hexagons that incorporate a three-story porch and Corinthian columns. The Elliott Hotel was located across the street from where the Knoxville News Sentinel and Journal building once stood, and newspaper staffers often called it the "Empty Arms" due to the large number of suddenly single men who lived there on short-term basis.

The two buildings, in apparently sound shape in spite of the fact that the Glencoe's graffiti-marked gutter is in tatters, have long frustrated downtown revivalists. As warehouses have become upscale luxury condos, these buildings, handsomer than many downtown apartment buildings, remained unimproved, and its owner long declined to sell them. The Keystone, another old residential building next door to the Elliott, was successfully redeveloped as a high-end condo building several years ago. Preservationists helped head off a proposal to tear down the Glencoe in connection to a truck-access project for the massive Tennessee Theatre renovation next door. The buildings remained occupied as among the last low-income residences in the central business district until tenants were evicted about two years ago when the City of Knoxville condemned the buildings for building and safety code violations. They have sat shuttered since.